[Assam] Masor tenga Anja

Ram Sarangapani assamrs at gmail.com
Tue May 29 18:53:26 PDT 2007

 This past weekend, I had this "immediate must"  to have masor tenga anja
(we were at the grocery store). She told me OK, go get the fish. The choice
was between Tilapia or Catfish. So, I got a couple of pounds of Tilapia (on
previous occassions, I always thought the catfish was always a better
option). But the Tilapia was not a bad choice. I don't know the
Assamese equivalent for Tilapia, but the catfish is the rohmas. I think the
Tilapia is magur mas.

As usual, I relish the dish. The downside is the tendency to overeat
(several helpings). I came across this 5 course meal as described
(beautifully) by someone. The tenga anja, we had, had some potatoes and the
tenga is usually from tomatoes (I am guessing here) and not the lemon (as
per the recipie here).

Anycase - just wanted readers to think something pleasant :)


Tuesday, April 3, 2007
 Grandma's Cooking<http://www.scrumptulescence.com/2007/04/grandmas-cooking.html>

So, the day I left Assam, my grandmother asked me what I wanted for lunch.
Since I like most everything, I hemmed and hawed, not wanting to make life
hard for her, but eventually sacked up and requested the following Assamese
feast. Unfortunately, I was to busy stuffing myself to take pictures, but
here's an attempt at description:

First course: Poita Bhat with Mitha Tel and Khorisa (Fermented rice with
mustard oil and bamboo shoots).
This is Assamese comfort food. You take some cooked parboiled rice, cover it
with water, and soak it overnight in a cool, dark place. The fridge actually
works fine. This ferments it, and gives it an interesting sweet/sour flavor.
Drain it, and the mix it with mustard oil and salt, and bamboo shoots to
taste. Mustard oil is incredibly pungent, and this is definitely not for
everyone. Serve the mixture with a hot green chili and raw salt on the side.
Bite into the chili, eat a little salt, and then eat a little of the rice
mixture. It's a very loud, very ethnic party in your mouth.

Second course: Masor Mur with Bengana (Fish head curry with baby eggplant).
I actually have very little idea what spices went into this to make it so
delicious. I know fish heads scare people, but they are delicious.
Interesting texture, great flavor. I'm going to guess there was some
onion/garlic (but just a little), salt, and sugar.

Third course: Dayal Bhat and Xak Bhaji (Rice and lentils with a side of
stir-fried greens).
The X is Xak should be pronounced like an incredibly soft H. I have no good
idea how to transliterate this, but this is relatively standard. Dayal = the
Assamese word for Dal. This was a nice, simple Dal, just some onions, cumin,
cilantro, and turmeric. No cream, no butter. Light, and very flavorful. I'll
post an approximate recipe soon.

The stir fried greens are of note because the incredible variety of greens
that one can obtain in Assam is just fantastic, and all have subtly
different flavors. By cooking them very lightly, you can really appreciate
these differences. I know the Assamese name for many of them, but not the
English. Some example of the English ones I do know: Mustard greens, radish
greens, collard greens, bok choy (ok, not English, but god knows, familiar
to this audience), clover (!). Though, to be fair, clover usually goes into

Fourth course: Masor Tenga (Lemon-tomato soup with fish).
I could rhapsodize about Tenga Anja (literally, sour soup) for ever. It is
the signature dish in Assamese cuisine, a delicately flavored broth with
lemon, tomatoes, and cilantro, that comes in a thousand variations. It's
also incredibly easy to make. I will post instructions soon.

The beauty of it is that you can put almost anything in it. People put in
potatoes to add body to the thin broth, or greens to add flavor. Squash or
zucchini goes well to absorb flavor. Fried lentil dumplings are another
traditional favorite (this variation is called bor diya tenga, bor =

But my absolute favorite is masor tenga (mas = fish). The heart of Assam is
the Brahmaputra river, and the capital city, Guwahati, is right on the
river. Thus, each morning, vendors come by house-to-house selling freshly
caught river fish. This fish, cut into relatively small (2"x2") bone-in
pieces, is lightly shallow-fried with salt and turmeric rubbed in before
being immersed in the broth. The result is just incredible.

Fifth course: Doyi Bhat with Gur and Kol (Yogurt rice with jaggery and
In both of the cultures that I come from (Tamil and Assamese), yogurt and
rice is eaten at the end of each meal. However, in south India it's eaten
with a salty and spicy pickle of some sort, while here, in Assam, it's eaten
with gur (basically, brown sugar in big chunks) and bananas, almost as a
proto-dessert. I like it both ways. And since I was in Assam, I followed the
sage advice of Ron Burgundy: "When in Rome...".

Posted by jsa at 6:24


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