Friday, August 28, 2009

Elephant apple / ou tenga : Assamese cuisine

This is an Elephant Apple a very regular and liked food item with many health benefits used in our Assamese kitchens.Being from north i had never come across this fruit until i got married... since the time i first tasted it i fell in love with this one.It is called Ou tenga (pronounced O ,tenga means sour).Its outer covering is hard and you need to be very careful while cutting it as the inside pulp is slippery in nature.We consume it in cooked form when the fruit is not too young or too ripe.It is considered as a liver and heart tonic and anti is known to have a cooling effect on the body .After cutting it into small pieces(seeds are discarded ) we prefer to pressure cook it by adding some water to is very acidic in nature.Once boiled some musturd seeds are spluttered in a wok or kadhahi and the boil mix is added ,later a pinch of turmeric and salt is make it more interesting fried fish can be added which is the most preferred choice out here.Its great specially if you are experiencing a very hot day .Tenga is served as the last dish (with the rice) i.e. once you are done with eating all the other items served.When kids are unwell and refuse to eat anything i always make this preparation because just one bite of tenga and rice mix is enough to stimulate their appetite.
I am only focusing the folk medicine culture in our food habits...if somebody is interested an expert advice is suggested.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Khar of Assam - An indigenous way of making bio-antacid

This is how khar (a bio-antacid)is made in my house.To make this BHEEM-KOL(a heavily seeded variety of banana)is used.Khar is an indispensable item in an Assamese household.......its a handy antacid and is also helpful in soothing a sore throat.Its a must have in every Assamese house.Displayed here is Bheem kol can see it is heavily seeded....this banana is known to have beneficial properties ,for ages it is considered as an option for first baby food(seeds are removed and mixed with rice flour).We sun dried the banana peel . Once fully dried we burn the peels in an iron vessel.........the ashes which remain is collected. A muslin cloth is used to drain the extract,traditionally , a coconut shell is used to strain the same.Plain drinking water is poured over it and in an hour or so you get this clear liquid which is stored at room temperature for months. It is of a very strong strength so very little quantity is used at a time(1 tbs approx).A dish is made using this ....a raw papaya or cucumber or bottle gourd is cut in small pieces to which salt and desired khaar is added ...cooked in medium heat..very often small fishes are added to it too. I am only focusing the folk medicine culture in our food habits .If somebody is interested an expert advice is suggested.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009



This is the back cover of the book published in memory of Kuna ba( a close relative and a great friend) whom we lost two weeks back to a deadly colon cancer- with a doctorate in child psychology -she was working as a professor and head of the dept of home science in a reputed girls college in Mirza.... her death report was covered by almost all the newspapers here.this painting is done by her seven year old daughter Antara titled SURJYA UTHA DESHOLOY..meaning" to the place where the Sun rises" is a goodbye gift from her to her mother .On the day of her Shraddha this book was distributed amongst all the friends,relatives and the family members.This book contains a lot of messages from family,friend and relatives.....many things written about her life, pictures of her childhood ,school days,college,marriage and many other aspects of her life.The idea of a book of this kind was initiated by both the families and the way both sides put their effort in was very touching and inspiring......even at a hard time like this they did something very positive.

In Assam it is mandatory to observe certain rituals in memory of the deceased ...starting from the day of death till the shraddha bhoj which takes place on the 13th day(many variations are seen )....but this pattern is followed by the most. I visited both the families(in-laws and her maternal home) many times ......during these thirteen days i saw all the rituals very minutely.I felt that these rituals are not only done in memory of the deceased but in a major way these are structured and designed to heal the family left behind mentally after such a great loss.....if not that at least it places the family on a healing path.Fasting and eating a plain meal,leaving some everyday comforts ,everyday evening prayers where all the family members and interested friends and families join.............people visiting the whole day to offer their moral support to the family.....a lot of talking and rebuilds our faith in family,relations,society and God even more.
At first i wrote a detailed version of these 13 days but later deleted because i was not sure if it is a right thing to do or not.... i want to share this beautiful lines written by Kuna's 15 years old nephew Chinmoy(i was surprised because it is the same kid whom i used to bribe with balloons before extracting his milk teeth).....


We were strong but now broken
only tears are left to show as token
pray darkness fails and light dawns
into a day of endless hope and delight
where pain is only a mere thought
and we are away from God's wrath;

Her smile ecstatic and joyous
shatters the pain that so monotonous
her humble looks delights ones sight
have hope and fight;
you are strong,
fight and prove all wrong

All that is good went in vain
she lost her fight with pain her movement cease to sway!
O DEATH!why thy take her away!
sleep now behind this curtain of fate!
now that we be joining you none too late!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A quiz competition on India's freedom struggle - Prerna.

Just few days back as our Independence Day 15th Aug was approaching ,me and my family members were busy discussing that how much we enjoyed the special preparations for this day's celebrations in our schools,homes ,offices ...weeks of march past drills,speeches,poem recitations,skits,songs what not?.......but now most of the schools of Assam are closed on this day because of terrorist threats from several ultra groups.....most of the celebrations are arranged either a day or two ahead.It has been ages that we attended any of these functions.It came as a great opportunity when my dear friend Rashmi Narzary a noted writer and columnist of Assam invited me to this quiz competition on the Freedom Struggle of India .Rashmi was the show obvious choice as she has an amazing stage presence and an equally amazing voice to go with it.The Quiz Master job was very well done by Dilip Baruah a noted personality of Assam.It was a big hit because of very good and interesting set of questions,audio-visual rounds .......some of the questions were very tough and the audience were surprised by the brilliantly prepared contestants (students from various schools).It was great to see that our new generation is very well interested in the history of our freedom-struggle.I n the pic ....Rashmi at the centre wearing the badge.
This quiz was organised by PRERNA...IAS officer's wives association Assam and was sponsored by Oil India Group.I present a question for my blogger friends from this quiz.....How much salt in weight was sold in Rs 55o to a businessman ,when it was first produced during Dandi March(salt march) by Mahatma Gandhi?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


This is the poja thali i have arranged for Gauri ,my five and a half year old daughter......tomorrow she is going to tie RAKHI(a band of protection) on her kid brother 's wrist.Raksha bandhan is a festival celebrating the sacred,precious and loving relation of a brother and a sister.....the sister ties a rakhi on her brother's wrist praying for his well-being while the brother pledges to protect her against all the harms,troubles and difficulties.
This festival falls every year on Shravan-purnima(i.e. mostly August)......this thali has a diya(lamp),rakhis,roli-chandan(used to mark a tilak on brother's forehead),flowers to shower on his head after tying rakhi and five different varieties of sweets to offer the brother....brothers are treated like kings on this day.In return brother gifts sister either some money or any other thing she and my sister always got money in return ,which use to make us very day we used the money to buy candies or ice creams from small shops just outside our school campus.In Assam this festival is not observed as such but i have introduced this to my family.....from the year i got married i started tying rakhis to my brother-in-laws ....they too enjoy the festival as much as i do...

The doll rakhi is the one Gauri selected for her brother,for my brother the one with red and blue stones,the red threads for all the members of the family and the big pendulous one for my Lord brother lives in Delhi , at this time of year when our kid's schools are in, it is not possible to visit each other so i always mail him rakhi which is tied by my younger sister on his wrist........i tie rakhi to the idols of Lord Ganesha,Krishna and Shirdi Sai baba.....i have been doing this for the last 15 years....may be one of these years i get lucky to tie rakhi on my brother's wrist in person...relationships are the essence of life,festivals like this brings family together.....we may not be together but this festival makes me and my brother remember each other fondly ....

Monday, August 3, 2009

Shri Satyanarayana Puja - Prasad/ Bhog / Ghul Prepared in Assamese Way

On Sunday we performed Shri Satyanarayana Puja at home.Most of you know about this puja...but for those who have never heard of this ,here is a brief is a religious Hindu observance where Lord Satyanarayana an extremely benevolent form of Lord Vishnu is worshiped.It is done on special occasions or during or after times of achievements like marriage,engagements, success in higher educations,beginning a new business or carrier,buying a new vehicle or new house etc.Its an offering of gratitude to the Lord for granting us abundances in all all forms and peace and harmony in life.We perform this puja annually in the Hindu calendar month of Sawan .......just before starting the puja our family priest offers a small portion of prasad to our PUJA-GHAR(worship room....this is my puja ghar where i perform daily puja).Though the puja ritual are same all over India one sees some regional influences too.I am a Kumauni(uttranchali) married to an was a very different experience for me when for the very first time i attended this puja after my marriage......everything was more or less same except for THE BHOG and BOOT-MOONG PRASAD. Here bhog is prepared mostly by the lady of the house....27 bananas,1.25 kgs of atta(wheat flour),1.25 kg of pure ghee(clarified unsalted butter),1.25 lts of milk,1.25 kg of sugar ....all this in exact measures are used...first bananas are peeled and mashed with the sugar,next atta , milk, ghee are added.....this is mixed till a smooth consistency is achieved ....i love to add lots of dry nuts here.It is not cooked and is distributed after the puja......believe me it is a major attraction among all be elders,young or tastes out of this world.
After distributing it to all the people attending puja and all the neighbours whatever is left is enjoyed by us for two three tastes even better after it gets chilled in refrigerator.In villages of Assam many use peetha-guri i.e. rice powder in place of atta and jaggery in place of sugar but i love this version more.Below is the pic. showing is very common in Assam and Bengal where soaked chickpeas and green lentils is offered as prasad in pujas.After puja is over little salt ,coconut pieces,ginger flakes are added to this...
This is the only picture of the puja yesterday.....Gauri capturede this one as all of us were busy with the puja...even though it is blur i wanted to share this one with you.