Savour the delicious ‘ronga mota kukura aru sandoh guri’ or chicken cooked with rice powder and herbs and relish the mouth-watering ‘hahor logot dohi kosu fong’ – duck meat cooked with yam – at the hugely popular Heritage Khorika restaurant here that marries the modern outlook on food with the traditional Assamese recipes straight from grandma’s kitchen.
At a time well-known food chains like Mainland China, Pizza Hut, KFC and Dominos are making their way into this northeastern Indian city, Khorika is a big draw among gourmands who simply love the aroma, taste and nutritional value of the age-old authentic dishes.
The eatery, owned by Assam’s most well-known Chef Atul Lahkar, opened its doors last year.
“I once asked my mother what is traditional Assamese food and she replied it is Tenga (sour curry) and khar (alkali-based dishes). It got me confused and I decided to discover the traditional Assamese food before it is too late,” Lahkar said.
“There is nothing wrong in my mother’s statements -sour and alkali are two important components of Assamese food. But I know that there is much more and one just needs to take them out from the grandmothers’ kitchen,” he added.
Lahkar, who has a deep interest in the aroma and flavours of the traditional Assamese recipes, travelled for years through the length and breadth of the state and even in other provinces of the northeast region to record the traditional recipes of different tribes and communities.
He also cooked with them to get every details of the herbs, spices and the cooking process traditionally used by the tribes and communities.
“I have gathered about 400 such traditional recipes of different tribes and communities in Assam and serve them as per the orders,” Lahkar said.
A vegetarian thali at the outlet includes all the tastes, including two traditional varieties of dal, rice, pitika (mashed potato), leafy vegetable, khar (one alkali based dish), a mixed vegetable and a Tenga (a sour curry) – and it costs only Rs.100 per person!
“We have lots of varieties of non-vegetarian dishes which one has to order separately. All the good restaurants here serve all varieties of fish and meat, including chicken, duck, pork and the like. However, our preparations are different as we follow the traditional recipes of different tribes and they are served in their authentic form without diluting the core content of herbs and spices,” Lahkar said.
He cited the example of ‘ronga mota kukura aru sandoh Guri’.
“It is a recipe of the Tai Ahoms in which chicken is cooked with rice powder and herbs. Similarly, ‘hahor logot dohi kosu dong’ is a traditional recipe of the Sonowal Kachari community.”
According to Lahkar, such traditional recipes, normally prepared only during festivals, are literally going into oblivion.
“There is an old saying in Assam: Hahe Kumurai/Bahe Borahe/Tengai Mase. Each line is a traditional recipe – Hahe Kumurai means duck meat cooked with white gourd, Bahe Borahe means pork cooked with bamboo shoot, Tengai Mase means fish in sour curry. We serve it all there to give a real Assamese authentic taste to everyone who visits us,” he said.
Another specialty of Heritage Khorika is that the menu changes with the seasons. In summer, one can order food with tengamora (a herb used in the sour fish curry) as it is found in abundance during the season.
Similarly, elephant apple is used to cook the sour curry during winter.