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Starting this week onward Delhi Food walks brings you a new series named Ethnic Food Tour series that catalogues our food explorations across the diverse and rich tribal panorama of our country and beyond.

It commences with the rustic cuisine of the Rabha tribe from Assam. The Rabhas are the indigenous tribal groups from Assam who belong to the Indo-Mongoloid group of people. In Assam they are mostly settled in Goalpara, Kamrup, Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Baksa, Bongaigaon, Chirang, Sonitpur and Karbi Anglong districts. Agriculture, forest based activities and weaving are the mainstay of their traditional economy in general. Rabha women are skilled weavers who usually make their garments on their own. However due to the lack of market opportunities and external support their exquisite skill haven’t yet transformed into a thriving livelihood opportunity.

Getting back to their cuisine, rice is the staple food of the Rabhas who are completely non vegetarians. Local herbs and edible insects are the essential components of their daily diet. The simple and rustic dishes have minimum use of spices and condiments. Home brewed rice beer is widely consumed not only during special occasions but on a daily basis. Their meal is hued with unique earthy notes because all of their ingredients are primarily sourced from the forests and local farms. To discover more about them, we visited the Ujan Rabhapara village in Kakoijana in Bongaigaon district of Assam along with our brilliant hosts Chayanika, Sishir and Risha whose insights helped us to get familiar with the new culture with ease.


En route to the village, we stopped at a local household to try Assamese Jolpan. It is the umbrella term for the traditional breakfast dishes that the locals relish daily. The Assamese word ‘Jolpan’ refers to both breakfast and evening snacks that includes different forms of the wide variety of local rice that are eaten with jaggery and curd. Typically, the base ingredient includes any one of the following-kumol saul (uncooked but soaked rice), sira (flattened rice), moori (puffed rice) etc. One can customise it with banana, sweet boondi, rasgulla etc. It also includes other preparations like Pitha and Nadu. We tried the most elementary of them i. e the Sira Doi gur and boondi laddo. It was such a comforting combination. 

After a short drive, we reached Ujan Rabhapara. Nestled amidst the green canopy of the Kakoijana forest expanse, this quaint sleepy village is home to the Rabhas. Kakoijana is the home to the endangered golden langur. Along with our hosts Chayanika, Sisir, Risha and Sanjib Sharma, we met the welcoming womenfolk from the village who had all gathered to cook a traditional Rabha meal for us. Since agriculture based activity are the mainstay of their livelihood, their cuisine is naturally dominated by the components from the same. 


Hence it isn’t a surprise that it includes rice which is the staple, various local herbs, meats, fishes and insects. Bugs and insects like the silkworm, red ants, grasshoppers etc. are the delicacies that define their cuisine. 


Another important element of the Rabha cuisine is the local rice beer called Chokoth, that is brewed in almost all households and is consumed almost daily. We tried it along with the genial locals. The taste profile of this alcoholic beverage was on the sweeter side. It is prepared by fermenting local rice along some herbs. After a period of 15 to 20 days they get ready for consumption.

The complete Rabha meal

The meal was prepared over the wood fire. Watching the herbs wilt in oil along with onions etc was a joyful experience although the addition of the silkworms or the red ants did make us apprehensive as it was our maiden attempt to try them. For the Rabhas these creatures are a nrich source of protein and so they are an important part of their regular diet. In no time with the collective efforts of the amazing womenfolks, the meal was ready. It was served in the local manner i.e. on the banana leaves. The meal comprised of the following- steamed rice, Mai Posung(steamed sticky rice with coconut) Skunkvine fritters, Silkworm with herbs, Posola di Kukura Mankho(country chicken cooked with banana stem), Taukam Bamshi(country chicken cooked with rice flour), Bakham(roasted pork), Hissa Pichi(Eggs of the red ants), Kekura bota(Crab Chutney), Guti aloo Aru Dhekiya Bhaji(baby potatoes with fiddlehead ferns) and Chokoth. Honestly some of the dishes like the silkworm and the dry fish chutney were an acquired taste that didn’t really catch our fancy although they weren’t at all weird. After finishing with the lunch we ate the Tamul and got ready for our departure. But what a humble experience it was with the simple and lively locals and of course the serene natural setting.

We are truly grateful to our amazing hosts for walking us through the fascinating landscape of the Rabha Cuisine with such enthusiasm and patience.

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This time our gastronomic pursuits have brought us to the largest of the North Indian states, Assam. Well known for its sprawling tea gardens, national parks, paddy fields, the mighty river Brahmaputra and an artistic heritage, Assam has emerged as a popular tourist destination. Its vibrant cuisine makes it an important food destination for foodie travelers.

Stretching 600km along the Brahmaputra River Valley, the archetypal Assamese landscape comprises of golden green rice fields and manicured tea estates. In the north, there are the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh and to the south there are the highlands of Meghalaya and Nagaland.

Once known as the Light of the East, the name Guwahati comes from the Assamese words “Guwa” meaning areca nut and “Haat” meaning village market. The largest and most cosmopolitan city in the region,  Guwahati serves as the starting point for many journeys to different parts of the North Eastern belt.

Our food explorations in Assam began from the scenic place called the Chandubi lake situated around 64 km away from the capital city of Guwahati. Surrounded by forests, tea estates and small villages, this calm and picturesque area is a popular tourist spot.

This beautiful lake was formed as a result of the submergence of a part of the forest area during the devastating earthquake that had hit Assam in 1897.  The glistening waters of Chandubi Lake is a rich habitat for different flora and fauna. Visitors can go for fishing and rowing. Taking a ride on a country boat is the best means to discover the pleasing waters of Chandubi.

At Chandubi we visited the Chandubi Jungle Camp along with our hosts Chayanika, Sisir and Risha to savour a traditional rustic meal prepared with local ingredients.

The scrumptious lunch spread at the retreat camp included the Tupula Bhat, Omita Khar, Assamese style chicken curry, Tangy fish curry, Aloo pitika, Koldil Bhaja, Bilahi Pora and dal. It was a simple and gratifying meal that introduced us to some new ingredients like Khar and thekera.

Khar is an integral part of Assamese cuisine and it is consumed at the beginning of the meal especially lunchThis indigenous thing is alkaline in nature. Assamese people cannot do without it and it is generally consumed once a week. It is prepared from the banana peel as well as the trunk of the banana plant.

In the evening we all gathered together to prepare bamboo chicken, bamboo pork and barbecued pork. Chicken or pork cooked in hollow bamboo stem is a popular delicacy in this region that has caught the fancy of the gourmet crowd from near and far. Although initially it appeared easy with the minimalist marinades and all but it wasn’t, as it needs practice to master this style. The outcome was delicious. We particularly loved the bamboo chicken and bamboo pork. We are super grateful to our amazing hosts for making us familiar with the wonderful local cuisine with so much warmth and patience.