A few weeks ago, Diganta Gogoi, an Assam-born musician living in Mumbai for five years, and his friends, also from the North Eastern state, decided to serve authentic Assamese dishes to city folk on the occasion of Magh Bihu, the Assamese harvest festival that falls today.
Til Pitha, a traditional Bihu sweet dish
With four friends taking over the kitchen at Gogoi’s Versova flat, they will be serving traditional fare like Khorisa Gahori (pork cooked with bamboo shoots), Patot Diya Maas (steamed fish cooked in banana leaf), Jaluk Diya Kukura Mangkho (pepper chicken cooked Assamese style) and Kaji Nemu (Assam lemon).
“We wanted to serve authentic dishes from our homeland that we relished during our childhood,” says Gogoi, adding that they would be taking up such initiatives in the future as well.
Maas aru Hokota Tita (fish cooked with dry jute leaves)
Gogoi’s team isn’t the only one celebrating their native festival in the city. According to Navi Mumbai-based Assam Assoc-iation, there are around 10,000 Assamese in the city; most will be hosting community feasts — an important aspect of the fest — this weekend. “The Assamese community resides in various pockets like Navy Nagar at Colaba and western suburbs like Andheri, Malad, Goregaon as well as Navi Mumbai, between Vashi and Panvel. Since the festival falls on a working day, community feasts will be hosted on the weekend,” informs Deepen Rajkonwar, general secretary of the association, where a cultural programme will be held on Sunday.
A taste of Assam
This Saturday, Assamese home chef Gitika Saikia is all set to whip up a Bihu meal at her home in Malad (W). “Villagers build thatched-roofed huts where they feast, and burn these huts the next day. They worship the fire god by throwing sesame into the fire. That’s why, Magh Bihu is incomplete without the traditional Til Pithas (a sweet dish comprising black sesame seeds rolled in glutinous rice flour),” she shares.
Inspired by Assam’s rural tribes, Saikia’s menu for this festive meal will include dishes like Khorisa aru Masala Paat Murgi (chicken flavoured with fermented bamboo shoots and Arunachali herbs), Guti Alu aru Tita Phool’r Bhaji (crispy fried baby potatoes with dried red flowers) and Maas, Dail Aru Hokota Tita’r Khar (river fish cooked with dal and dry jute leaves with alkali), traditionally made by Assam’s Bodo tribe. “Most ingredients that I use, like jute leaves, Elephant Apples, fermented bamboo shoots and Arunachali herbs are sourced from Tezpur and Dibrugarh in Assam,” informs Saikia.
>> Til/Ghila Pitha: While Til Pitha is made with black sesame seeds, Ghila Pithas are fried rice flour balls sweetened with jaggery.
>> Xandoh: Served as jolpan (morning snack), Xandoh is made by pounding glutinous rice flour and served with milk or yogurt
>> Larus: Coconut laddoos
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Savour drinks like Jaluk Diya Phika Saah (peppery, salty Black Tea), Gahori aru Ou Tenga (pork cooked with chunks of Elephant Apple) and a variety of Bihu specialties at a lunch hosted by Gitika’s Pakghor.
On: January 17
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Join the festivities
Assam Association has organised a festive programme comprising community sports, a painting competition, extempore speech competition for children and a cultural function. The celebration will end with a feast.
On: January 18, 5.30 pm onwards AT Sankalp Nursery, next to Raghuleela Mall, near Vashi railway station, Navi Mumbai.
Cost: Rs 200 (for the feast)
Did you know?
There are around 10,000 Assamese living in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.