My culinary journey is incomplete without preparing my homeland’s popular authentic recipe – the maasor tenga ( tangy fish curry) – the epitome of Assamese cuisine. Khar( Alkaline) and Tenga ( Acidic) characterises an Assamese traditional meal. The knowledge of this recipe is one of my family heirlooms – my great-grandmother taught my grandmother, my grandmother taught my father and my father taught me.
Actually there are several ways to prepare the masor tenga depending upon the souring agent used. It could be lemon ( citric acid) or tomato ( citric acid ) or chuka xaak/ Sorrel ( oxalic acid) or outenga/ Elephant Apple ( betulinic acid) or thekera/ Mangosteen ( a sour fruit indigenous to Assam). Season also affects the way of preparing it. For example, in the summers, the recipe calls for ridge gourd and lemon ( jika-tenga-maas) and in the winters, the recipe calls for bottle gourd and tomato( lau-bilahi-maas). Other variations are chuka-paleng-maas( Sorrel and Spinach), Dhekia-outenga-maas(Fiddlehead fern and elephant apple ), Kosu-konbilahi-maas ( Colocasia and currant tomato).
I’ll share all the recipes that my grandmother knew in my forthcoming posts. But right now, let me share one of my favourite dishes – which happen to be my ultimate comfort food.
Ingredients Prep time:30 min Serves:2
200 gms fresh river fish, cut into 1- inch thick slice
2 tsps turmeric powder
2 tbsps cooking oil ( I prefer mustard oil)
1/2 tsp paanch phoran ( It is a mixture of equal quantities of five spices: cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, onion seeds)
1 ridge gourd/jika – cut into small cubes
1 cup boiled potatoes
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 green chilli ( slited)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1. Marinate the fish with salt and turmeric powder for 10-15 minutes.
2. Heat oil to smoking point, reduce to medium heat and then add the fish slices. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side. Drain on absorbent paper and set aside.
3. Add paanch phoran and coriander seeds in the remaining oil of the pan. When the seeds crackle, add ridge gourd. Add turmeric powder and salt and sauté for few minutes till tender.
4. Add the slightly mashed boiled potatoes and green chilli and sauté for two to three minutes.
5. Add 1 cup of lukewarm water and fried fish to it and simmer for 4-5 minutes in medium-high heat.
6. Lastly add lemon juice and simmer again for 2-3 minutes to let the fish absorb the tangy flavour.
7. Remove from fire. Serve hot with rice.