With the abundance of green forest cover looking majestic in all its glory rendering Assam an ethereal natural beauty, its fertile land has also blessed the inhabitants of the state to grow various kinds of fruits, vegetables and herbs besides its staple crop rice. Due to the suitability of reaping a good harvest, the Assamese cuisine is choc a bloc with varieties of xaak (herbs) along with an array of delicious vegetable based curries and fruit chutneys, most of which are cooked in less spices thereby making it extremely healthy. Meanwhile, the state also has its unique types of meat dishes , some of which are exotic but most of these non-vegetarian food items are also cooked with few ingredients so that the taste of the flesh becomes more prominent in the tongue and the main dish is not overpowered with the flavour of the things that went behind its making.
The non-vegetarian delights of Assamese cuisine includes-
As with the rest of India, chicken is one of the most widely consumed and a highly favourable meat of the people of Assam. Although many a people like to consume chicken along with a light / spicy potato curry as a dish during breakfast, lunch or dinner meals, there are others who would go all out to make the lovable meat an interesting affair with vegetables like bottle gourd so that it can be enjoyed as a wholesome , light and healthy curry along with rice. However, the most unique type of chicken dish of Assam is the one cooked with bamboo shoots or as locally called Baanhgaj. Although the cooking process of chicken with bamboo shoots is much like cooking an ordinary version of chicken curry, the exclusivity of this food item is rendered by the addition of boiled bamboo shoots which gives a distinctive taste to it thereby helping it in making chicken a heavenly dish in the state.
Patha / Xanhi (Mutton)
One of the non-vegetarian dishes that is enjoyed in its spiciest and oiliest form in Assam is the mutton curry. Made from the flesh of a goat or lamb, mutton curry is mostly eaten during special occasions like a religious feast, birthday celebrations , family get-togethers , weddings, baby’s rice-eating ceremony and death anniversaries. Moreover, mutton is the only meat that is traditionally included in the non-vegetarian food menu of the celebratory occasions of the Assamese people besides the fish which is also considered as a must-have dish to be served to the invitees. As the Assamese style mutton curries are mostly a sumptuously rich gravy, it is enjoyed with hot rice or pulao.
The Magh Bihu feast of the Assamese is incomplete without preparation and consumption of the duck meat. As is the case of most meat based dishes of Assam, duck is also enjoyed with potatoes but it is often prepared with varieties of gourds. As gourds are full of fiber that helps to enhance digestion (insoluble fiber) and promote healthy cholesterol levels and helps in turning a meat curry into a healthy dish without overpowering the flavour of the flesh, therefore duck curry with gourds is widely found as a regular non-vegetarian lunch or dinner fare in most Assamese households. The tender flesh of duck along with the watery content of the gourds makes a duck curry a flavoursome and soothing dish in taste and wholesome yet light appetizer too.
An exotic dish of Assam, pigeon curry is mostly enjoyed nowadays during family get togethers and Bihu festivities. As the cutting and cleaning of pigeons is a tedious process and its demand has become less nowadays, its sale has also started to decline. However, pigeon meat was once a great meaty delicacy that was savoured with relish in the 80s and 90s in Assam. As the saying goes-old is gold, pigeon meat is also eaten at times in 2021 but mostly during special occasions whereas meat lovers do feast on it regularly. As pigeon meat has the capacity to give a warm sensation to the body, it is mostly consumed during winter months. This unique non-vegetarian dish of the state is cooked with curries comprising of potatoes, papayas and banana flower.
One of the highly loved meats of the Assamese people is the pork. While this succulent variety of meat is mostly consumed by conjuring up curries with bamboo shoots and different green leafy vegetables and herbs grown in the state, it also taste heavenly when grilled with a sinful coating of ginger, garlic, onion and chilli paste and served warm. A large number of Assamese youths have taken an extreme fondness for this dish. While partying hard during occasional get-togethers or going out for some long distance trips, most Assamese youths often team up together to conjure innovative pork recipes along with other dishes in order to have a good time with each other during cooking besides saving money from buying food from restaurants.
Silkworm is an exotic dish that is popular among the tribal sections of Assam. The larva is consumed by deep-frying it so that the outer texture becomes utterly crispy. However, the inner portion of the larva retains its soft texture. If you haven’t taste this dish yet, do try because it is truly worth it. While other varieties of meats that is popular in Assam are cut into chunks and cooked and requires a person to taste it by putting only one piece in the mouth, the scenario is totally different with silkworm. While eating silkworms, you can pop two to three in your mouth and enjoy the perfect crunchy texture as your teeth loudly cuts the little meaty delights in your tongue before it gets swallowed.
Hamuk (Water snails)
One of the most awesome exotic meat dishes of Assam is the water snail. Snails are enjoyed by cooking it with pumpkin or potato based curries. However, the challenging part of eating snails is the need for sucking the meat out of the shell. Water snails are mostly sourced from fresh water bodies such as rivers and streams.