Tuesday, June 17, 2014

আমৰ টেঙাঁ (spicy-tangy smashed raw Mango) and some memories!!

This time I am writing about a food that makes me immensely nostalgic. It reminds me of lazy summer afternoons many many years ago and thirsty ourselves (i.e. me and my sister) returning home from busy tiring days at school. On a few lucky days, while approaching home, we will see few aunts, our pals and some favourite elder sisters from the neighbourhood gathered in our balcony! Our little hearts will jump in joy because this casual get-together indicates that mom will spare us from the mandatory "afternoon nap" for those days!! Those afternoons were full of laughter, insignificant discussions on a varied range of topics and of course, a little bit of gossip!! I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, I loved to hang out with seniors and listen to their tittle-tattle. It made me feel all grown up :) Anyway, the binding agent of those gatherings was one very typical Assamese spicy and tangy treat. Because, it is sour in taste, we generally call it tenga (in Assamese language, tenga means sour). Sometimes, we call it pitika also! Honestly speaking, I am having a hard time finding the perfect synonym in English to describe this mouth-watering delicacy. These tenga treats may be the Assamese way of fighting the summer heat, although we do love it during winter too :) These pitikas and tengas are made with one main tangy and raw fruit such as Aam (Mango), Rabab Tenga (Pummelo), Jolfai (Indian Olive), Kordoi (Star Fruit), Bogori (Winter Fruit), Kathal (Jack Fruit, baby ones), Amlokhi (Indian Gooseberry), Teteli (Tamarind) mixed with some hot green chillies and salt. Some times we even mix two or more above mentioned fruits. The zesty succulent flavour that comes out of squashing the fruit with other ingredients induces a juicy-tangy kick to your palate! Heavenly!! :) :) 

And you hardly require 15 minutes to prepare this. That's the best part. All you need is to mix and squeeze everything together. When I saw raw mangoes in my local grocery store last week, I could not resist the temptation. One fine day thereafter, when there was plenty of sun outside, I made it and gorged on it with utter happiness and sheer joy. It was, not in any way, same as those fun-filled hang outs in our varandah back home! If only, I could bring back those days! Nonetheless, I enjoyed my aam-pitika. It reminded me of the beautiful days of childhood when life was way more simple and carefree!!

Ingredients: Raw mango, Salt, Mustard Oil, Cilantro (Coriander) Leaves, green Chillies.

Traditionally, we add everything with the mango, cut into smaller pieces in a traditional khundana (grinder) and grind everything together. I believe you can use a mixer too! But in the absence of a traditional grinder, this is how I made it.
  • Remove the seed of the mango. 
  • Cut into small pieces and grate them.
  • Smash a few green chillies into the grated mango to get the spiciness.
  • Add salt according to taste and a few drops of mustard oil. Mustard oil is important, I believe its very complimentary to the fiery sour taste of the mango.
  • Add chopped cilantro and mix everything together. Using your hands in place of a spoon will give a better result.
  • Savour it :) :) :)
So yeah, raw sour-sweetness of mango, hotness of fresh green chillies brought together by the salt, mustard oil and appetizing/refreshing smell of cilantro! Can you tell how much I love this :) :) Oh, just a little heads up, because it so sour, it tends to be little acidic in nature! I always make sure that I have proper meal before indulging on this delicacy. Better be careful than popping on pills for acid indigestion, right? ;)

This kind of sour-tasting mid-afternoon food is very common in Assam. My mom is a very firm believer in traditional healthy Assamese way of cooking. So am I! Assamese cuisine is filled with so many exotic and flavourful fruits and vegetables, we use very little oil and spice and most of the recipes are extremely easy to cook. We have an amazing range of basic flavours that range from familiar sweet, salty, sour tastes to some peculiar taste like khar (alkali) and keha (sour astringent sweet flavour)! This range of basic taste might be a reason why we, Assamese people, like food from different parts of the globe. I love trying out new cuisine from all around the world; I devour fried chicken with equal delight as Sushi but Assamese cuisine is and will always remain my number one favourite. I absolutely L.O.V.E it and will continue to work on promoting it in whichever small way I can!!

If you were brought up in an Assamese household, you definitely have experienced some version of this 'tenga' sometime in your life. But yeah, this particular item is definitely a different kind of food, specially for my non-Assamese readers. If you are completely new to the idea, try it...its a nice little way of including some vit-c in your diet :) :)

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