April is the month of festivities in Assam as it celebrates the onset of Bohag and the Assamese New Year, also known as Bohag or Rongali Bihu. There’s a happy vibe in the air; new leaves appear on the trees and flowers like nahor (Indian rose chestnut) and togor (crape jasmine) can be sighted in the gardens. Graceful Bihu nasonis, draped in muga mekhela sador, and palms decorated with jetuka (henna) designs, and kopou phool (foxtail orchids) tucked into buns, head out for husori, and one can hear the rhythmic beats of the dhol, pepa and gogona being played at a distance. The haat bojars (local markets) are a feast to the eyes; brimming with traditional treats, seasonal vegetables, fresh fish and meat, and other regional ingredients to lend to the grand New Year feast.
Early in the morning, people bathe themselves with raw turmeric and urad dal paste, don new clothes, and seek blessings from the elders, while also exchanging gifts. This is usually followed by jalpan – a light breakfast meal where sticky rice or flattened rice are eaten along with curd or cream and jaggery. It’s also accompanied by pitha and laru. Since Assamese dearly love their food, the main meal comprises khar, xaak, vegetable and fish preparations, mutton, local chicken, and even pork, duck, and pigeon.
Here, we have listed down seven easy recipes that you can make at home to win your loved ones’ hearts this Bihu.
Ghila Pitha (Fried sweet pitha)
500g — Rice flour
300g — Jaggery
1tbsp — Saunf
1tbsp — Sticky rice flour
A pinch — Baking powder
Mustard oil — For frying
- Mix rice flour, sticky rice, fine jaggery, saunf, and form a wet dough.
- Keep the dough overnight. The next day, add baking powder.
- Make small oval-shaped balls.
- Deep fry till it turns golden brown.
Poka Mithoi (Rice powder and jaggery balls)
1 cup – Rice powder
1/2 cup – Jaggery
1/4 cup – Water
1tsp – Freshly ground pepper
- Soak the rice for 5 hours. Drain well. Spread on a kitchen towel to dry.
- Pound the rice to a fine powder. Sieve it really well. Keep in an airtight container for further use.
- Roast the rice powder in a heavy bottomed kadai till you get a sweet aroma coming out of it. Make sure to stir it continuously.
- Remove it from the fire and mix freshly ground pepper to the roasted rice powder.
- Make a syrup of the jaggery and water on slow flame and mix a little of this syrup to the rice powder to make firm round balls.
- Dust the balls with roasted rice powder. Store in an airtight container
Omitar Khar (Alkaline papaya preparation)
¼ cup – Mustard oil
1tsp – Paanch phoran
Salt as required
1tsp – Coriander leaves
½tsp – Baking soda
1 – Raw green papaya
1tsp – Black pepperCrushed garlic: 1 tbsp
1 – Green chilli
- Cut the papaya into medium-sized cubes
- Saute the papaya with half the black pepper, and salt
- Place a heavy bottom metal kadai and pour mustard oil
- Add paanch phoran, when it sputters, add papaya
- Add the leftover black pepper powder and salt
- Cover and cook on low flame
- In a separate pan, boil 1 cup water and add baking soda
- Once the raw papaya is cooked properly and becomes soft, add coriander leaves
- Now pour the khar gravy, the water cooked with baking soda, and let it simmer
- Switch off the gas
- Pour 1tsp mustard oil on top
- Serve hot with rice
Jolphai Guror Chutney (Olive jaggery chutney)
4-5tbsp – Mustard oil
1 bowl – Crushed olives
50g – Gur/jaggery
2tsp – Paanch phoron
1tsp – Chilli powder
2tsp – Roasted jeera
2tbsp – Honey
Salt to taste
- Heat some mustard oil into the pan.
- Add gur and mix it well on medium heat
- Add olive and mix.
- Then add salt, paanch phoron, chilli powder, roasted jeera and cook for a few minutes
- Finish it off by adding some honey.
Maasor Tenga (Sour fish curry)
500g – Fresh rohu fish
5 – Potatoes (half boiled)
4 – Tomatoes
1tbsp – Black mustard seeds
1tbsp – Zeera
2 – Onions, finely chopped
5tbsp – Turmeric powder
2 – Green chillies
Salt per taste
- Marinate the fish with salt, turmeric powder, and 1 tbsp mustard oil. After 15 minutes, fry the fish in mustard oil.
- In another bowl, marinate the half-boiled potato with salt, turmeric powder and fry it until it gets golden brown. Keep it aside.
- Put 50 ml mustard oil in a hot pan. Once the oil gets hot, put 1 tbsp jeera, 1 tbsp mustard seeds, 2 chopped green chillies, finely chopped onion, and tomatoes. Fry until it gets a little brown, and then add 1/2 tbsp turmeric powder and salt.
- Now add the fried potato into the pan and stir well for five minutes.
- Pour 3 cups of warm water, cover the pan, and put it in seam for 3-4 minutes.
- Now add the fried fish into the pan. Keep it on for another 4-5 minutes.
- Garnish with fresh chopped coriander and serve.
Sagolir Mangxo (Mutton Curry)
1kg – Mutton cut into medium pieces
2 – Potatoes cut into big cubes and fried
3tbsp – Ginger-garlic paste (home-made preffered)
4-5 – Chopped onion
5tsp – Mustard oil
1 – Bayleaf
1 – Tomato
2-3 – Green chillies
1tsp – Cumin powder
1tsp – Garam masala
1tsp – Meat masala (optional)
1/2 – Crushed black pepper
A pinch of sugar
Salt to taste
Chopped coriander for garnishing
- Combine the meat in turmeric, coriander powder, 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste, onion paste, mustard oil, and salt in a bowl, and allow to marinate for 1 hour.
- Heat the mustard oil in a karahi and add the bay leaf, a pinch of sugar, chillies, and onions, fry until golden in colour.
- Add the remaining ginger-garlic paste and fry for a few seconds.
- Add the marinated meat, meat masala, and cook until oil separates from the meat.
- Add the garam masala, black pepper, tomato pieces and the fried potatoes, mix well and fry for 15 minutes.
- Now put the fried meat in a pressure cooker and add 2 -3 cups of water
- Pressure cook for 6 whistles and remove from the flame.
- Open the lid after 5 minutes, and transfer the mutton curry in a serving bowl.
- Garnish with fresh coriander leaves
Joha Saulor Payox (Rice pudding)
1litre – Full cream milk
½ cup/100g – Joha rice
50g – Sugar
1tbsp – Golden raisins
1 tbsp – Chopped cashew nuts
½tsp – Cardamom powder
1 big – Bay leaf
- Soak the rice for about 20 min.
- Take a deep bottom pan, add milk, bay leaf and bring it to.
- Add the pre-soaked rice, raisins and nuts into the milk and keep stirring on a low heat so that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring until the rice is almost cooked.
- Now add the sugar, cardamom powder and cook for some more time until the texture of the pudding becomes creamy and thick.
- Garnish with cashew flakes.
- Serve hot or at room temperature.