Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bilahi Tenga :A Sour Dish in Assamese Cuisine

This post was previously published in N-zine  ( Food and Beverages issue ).
In the pic:Fish and Tomato Tenga )
Assamese cuisine is characterized by very little use of spices but strong flavors mainly due to the use of endemic exotic herbs, fruits and vegetable.One of the most popular dish from Assam, the Tenga , is an indispensable part of a proper meal in Assam.Meal is served in courses here.A traditional meal in Assam begins with a Khar an alkali dish and ends with a Tenga, a sour dish. These two dishes characterize a traditional meal in Assam.Now let me tell you what does the term Tenga-Anja means :It is a sour dish, normally a curry made with various soring agents like Tomatoes , Lemon(kazi nemu ..a local variety), Thekera(Mangosteen), AouTenga(Elephant Apple). A tenga dish can have various versions .Many of these souring agents are not easily available outside Assam.Keeping this fact in mind and focusing on the easy availability of the ingredients I am going to share here two very simple recipes one a non veg i.e.with fish and another a veg version i.e.with Masoor Daal(red lentil) with Tomatoes being the basic souring agent.Tenga is making its presence felt internationally too,recently British Celebrity Chef included fish tenga among one of his hundred favorite recipes(though his recipe is nowhere near the original tenga ,that's another story).Check for the links on some interesting news related to tenga and assamese cuisine
3.Aromas Of Assam( on news on 12.09.10).
Belahi-Macchor Tenga Anja:
ingredients: 5-6 tomatoes (preferably ripe)
5-6 pieces of rohu fish(any carp)
: pinch of mustard seeds/fenugreek seeds
:mustard oil :turmeric powder
:lemon juice 1-2 tbsp(optional,i use it only if the tomatoes are not sour enough)
Method : Cut tomatoes into small pieces like shown above.Apply turmeric powder and salt to the fish pieces and after keeping them aside for 5-10 mins . Light fry them . Heat very little mustard oil(you can use any refined oil too but it tastes better with mustard oil) on a pan . Add mustard seeds , as soon as they splutter add tomatoes .(If you choose to use fenugreek seeds ,remove the seeds as soon as they are done spluttering).Cover the pan and let the tomatoes soften upon a moderate heat. Once tomatoes soften add turmeric powder and salt to it-mix well and cook covered for another 2-3 mins..

Now add a cup and a half of hot boiling water to the tomatoes and let it simmer for 2-3 mins.Add fried fish to the mix and simmer it for another 5 mins.Your delicious Fish Tenga is ready.Many add chopped coriander and slit green chillies to it as garnish-i don't use it as my folks love it just like this.Serve it with plain boiled rice (please ,please don't eat it with fried rice of any kind).

Masoor-daal Boror Bilahi Tenga
Ingredients: Masoor daal (red lentil) 1 cup
:5-6 Tomatoes finely chopped
:mustard oil /refined oil for frying
:Turmeric powder
:lemon juice 1-2 tbsp (optional)
:saltMethod: Soak the daal in a bowl.Masoor daal needs very little soaking time (about an hour ), once you notice the splits in daal ,consider it ready for grinding.

You can grind it in a mixer/blender by adding little water at a time,if the paste has too much water ,boras will not turn out well.I use a stone grinder most of the time and occasionally a blender if i am in hurry.The reason for using a stone grinder is to keep the texture little coarse ,i feel that the boras taste better this way.

The preferable texture of the masoor daal mix is shown here in the picture.Now add 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder and salt to taste .Mix well.Heat oil in a pan -add the mix to the oil with the help of a spoon ,one at a time.Fry them upon moderate heat to avoid fast cooking as high heat results in a burnt exterior and an undercooked inside.

Fry them on both the sides until they turn light golden.Remove boras from the heat ,keep aside.Add some fresh oil(little) to the pan,once heated splutter mustard seeds on it.Throw in the finely chopped tomatoes to the it.Cook it covered till the tomatoes soften.Remove the cover and add turmeric powder and salt to the tomatoes.Mix it well .Add two cups of boiling water here (we need more water here because once we add boras,the water is sucked up by them),simmer it again for 2-3 mins.Now its time to add boras -do it gently.

After boras are added ,let it simmer uncovered for another 3-4 minutes .If you want you can add lemon juice to it after removing the pan from the heat.If you like garnish it with coriander leaves.Serve it with plain boiled/steamed rice.


  1. looks delicious but lots of work to prepare. I enjoy curry dishes but have only eaten Thai food with it.

  2. yummy :-)
    Great stuffs, well explained, amazing.Thanks Kavita.

  3. Good morning, very interesting post, educational, accompanied with a very impressive photos. Thank you for the effort you've invested to help us illustrate the values that are inherent in this type of meal, l really would be good to try this well prepared meal. I wish to you all the best

  4. Wow! Nicee! I will try the
    Masoor-daal Boror Bilahi Tenga sometime soon ;)

  5. Sry! 3rd comment here. Esp. luv the photo of the stuff on the grinding stone :)

  6. as Someone with a GREAT interest in cookery all i could say is Fantabulous....Looked amazing, would try this at home. After all, variety is the spice of life. TC, thanks for sharing.

  7. I am full of respect for those who prepare curries from scratch! Your dishes looks so delicious!

  8. Food for thought :)
    I would love to try the fish tenga...

  9. These all look so delicious - I can smell them as I sit here.

  10. The food looks awesome, Kavita! I should try to use turmeric more often in my own cooking, as it is supposed to be very good for one's health.

  11. I made the biggest blunder - of reading your post at 2245 hrs, hours after my supper. And I have this un-containable urge to feast on Fish Tenga! Aarhh! I will read the rest of the recipes tomorrow. Otherwise I will go crazy!

    A gourmet's delight - both the recipes and the photos!

  12. I like the way you described the dish's, sound too spicy for me but they look delicious. I showed this post to my son, who likes to add spices to his dish's, he is going to try one of them. Thanks for sharing this very interesting post.

  13. very tempting recipe...gr8..will try sometime!

  14. This looks absolutely delicious. I admire anyone who makes their meals from scratch ... I only do about half of the time. Sigh. I am going to read through the recipe again, if only to try to imagine what this must taste like!

  15. They all look so delicious and inviting! Have a great weekend my dear friend and thank you very much for your kind visits and sweet words!

  16. Oh my! It's so much fun to see a different kind of food and its explanation. It does look like a lot of work to prepare though.

  17. You force me to over indulge , not that I do not .
    Magnificent pictures too!!

  18. You force me to over indulge , not that I do not .
    Magnificent pictures too!!

  19. loooks delicious

    ab dekhne main aisa hai to KHAANE main kaisaa hogaaa

    yehi soch soch ke mooh pe paani aa raha hai... :)


  20. The cuisine is meticulously depicted in picture too…
    Awesome work…

  21. yummy! when can I gatecrash & eat it all up?

  22. Excellent description.

    I will have print out and have my wife cook for me. I am not allowed in kitchen...well I got myself disallowed somehow.

    Very good pictures also.

  23. They all look very delicious. I would love to have them.

  24. Even Bengali cuisine is not very spicy and most of the spices are freshly ground. The dhani, jeera and sometimes even haldi is ground every day in the stone grinder and as a result the food tastes absolutely amazing. Here of course I just use dried spice powder.
    My kids do not like fish, but the dal item looks very promising. I will cook it one day and let you know how it turned out.
    The photos look very good.

  25. You are a tempting chef and food writer, Kavita!

    Aloha from Waikiki

    Comfort Spiral



  26. looks great Kavita - would like to try it if I have the time.

  27. so tempting..godd..dont show such alluring stuff to hungry ones like us plz..hey good post ya..

  28. Interesting. That sure looks yummy!

  29. Looks so yummy kavitha,feel like having it now :)

  30. a very tasty and delicious post! Mouthwatering to say the least

  31. I'm learning some new cooking tricks. Thank you.

  32. Both the dishes are very similar to bengali cuisine, I especially love the masoor dal grounded and made into balls and fried. I like them even better just like that without the curry!

  33. I really appreciate your significant work in taking Assam to the rest of the world.

  34. I have never used Masoor dhal at home. No one uses here. I have tasted some dish in my Maharashtrian friend's house. Now, I will try this. I think the fried pieces also will taste good, isn't it?!

    I had this grinder shown in your picture and used to grind in it a lot, long back. Now, do everything with the mixer! Some things taste better like onion chutney (small onions), if we grind it coarsely in this grinding stone! Nice to know that you still use it, Kavita!

    Nice photographs!

    Sorry, I am late here, Kavita!

  35. Looks delicious. Waiting to come to Guwahati and having this at your home :-)

  36. waiting for a parcel of this cuisine..hungry..come on..

  37. ✿ ܓOlá, amiga!
    ܓ ✿Com todos esses ingredientes... é tudo de bom. ✿
    ✿✿Boa semana!
    Beijinhos. ✿
    ✿✿✿ ܓ

  38. Hi, Kavita. I just stopped in to say hello and to wish you a fantastic-ly splendid Week!

    This sounds delicious, let me know when you make it again. I'll drop in for a bite.

  39. Kavi..mouth watering...

    Any way to get a parcel...

  40. Where are you going Kavi? Gonna miss ur recipes.

    We keralites too make that Masoor dal Boror but slightly different. Either we fry it and eat or put it in "Rasam" and have. Funny how some dishes are so similar.

    I never knew Mangostein is used in curry. We just eat it as a fruit.

  41. time to cook more perhapas :D

  42. am a fan of this blog...keep up the good work and return fast Dr K...

  43. Just checking in to say hello. As you haven't posted for a while I hope all is well with you and yours.

  44. I will have masoor daal... I am a Veggie... Thats one of my favorites, you cooked it very differently to how we make it here in mumbai...
    That must taste equally delicious...

  45. OMG! mouth watering ! literally! we have a assamese boy working at our home, at times for our dishes he used to say tenga, but we were not able to understand as to what he means by it, nor was he able to tell us....I am rolling on my stomach after knowing it, because I always thought this is his way of expressing appreciation for cooking disasters I make some time !

    Can you give more recipes on fish, when ever you make. Because being in North India, and that too in a Punjabi family I have learnt the way to cook good chicken and Mutton dishes, but fish is one thing I need to work upon.

  46. Hi, Kavita. I'm just dropping back in to see what's new and to say hello. I hope you have a nice Week.

  47. Wow! Nice photography ! WELLCOME TO MY BLOG.

  48. ♥ Olá, amiga!♫
    ♫♥ Passei para ver as novidades!...
    ♫♫ Beijinhos. ♥♫
    ♫♥ Brasil

  49. sorry to post this here didi.i tried to get your e-mail id but mission failed.anyway again you don't have to post it.its my Christmas wish to you.
    Follow the above link,you can see my card.

    Once again happy Christmas to you and your family.

  50. ♥♫ Querida amiga,

    "Que o Natal não seja apenas uma data... mas um estado de espírito a orientar nossa vida... e que o amor se renove a cada ano da nossa convivência."

    ♫♫♫ Feliz Natal!!!

    …………*./ | \ .*
    ………, • '*♥* ' • ,
    ……. '*• ♫♫♫•*'
    ….. ' *, • '♫ ' • ,* '
    ….' * • ♫*♥*♫• * '
    … * , • Feliz' • , * '
    …* ' •♫♫*♥*♫♫ • ' * '
    ' ' • . Navidad . • ' ' '
    ' ' • ♫♫♫*♥*♫♫♫• * ' '


  51. ° • ♫ "Happy MMXI !!!...
    °º ♫°° ♫♫ Feliz Ano Novo!!!!...
    ° ·. •*• ♫

    Brasil °º♫
    ° ·.

  52. year...2011
    have a good time!

  53. Happy new year kavitha to u and to th kids,hugggsss...

  54. Everthing here sounds delicious! It's making me even hungrier. Maybe it's because it's dinnertime but your photos are so delectable. Happy New Year, Kavita!

  55. hello kavita.

    this looks similar to the fish tenga i know, can u help me with kala mutton & other version of Katla fish recipe.
    i want to surprise my husband, his native is mangaldoi,

    Maxine mozes-saharia

  56. Hi, looks good. I've got 2 AouTengas from my recent visit to Assam. For the masoor dal recipe, can I replace the tomatoes with them? Pl do let know. Thanks

  57. What a great web log. I spend hours on the net reading blogs, about tons of various subjects. I have to first of all give praise to whoever created your theme and second of all to you for writing what i can only describe as an fabulous article. I honestly believe there is a skill to writing articles that only very few posses and honestly you got it. The combining of demonstrative and upper-class content is by all odds super rare with the astronomic amount of blogs on the cyberspace.

  58. Well done with your blog Kavita. I don't really know how I chanced upon it (been doing some serious googling for Assamese food blogs).. That said: I am happy I came across this blog. I have only recently taken to food blogging. Wud love to be a part of your room :)
    My tiny litle effort is called:
    You are most welcome in there...
    Once again: good job!