No awards for guessing that; Assam it is. Business calling to Guwahati was a great eating experience. Although my co-author of this blog is a resident of the capital of Assam but for me this was the first trip there.
Most of the trip was business with meetings from morning to evening. However, on special request to the hosts were treated to the best of Guwahati hospitality.
A few highlights which I can list down are
- Early morning walk in the market on the shores of Brahmaputra behind the Guwahati High Court.
- Early evening walk in Paan Bazaar.
- Lunch at Paradise Hotel.
The early morning flight from Delhi to Guwahati was a beauty. Movement of the aircraft from night to day – another first kind of an experience for me. The Himalayas shining beautifully in the early morning sun and view from the airplane window was breathtaking. The other people on the aircraft were probably used to the site and hence fast asleep at 5:30 am.
Landing and reaching the Ashoka Brahmaputra was a breeze as Uber and Ola are there everywhere now. I got a room with a view of the Brahmaputra but unfortunately Ashoka is not really maintained well, so the lawn looked shabby although the overall experience of a rustic old time classic hotel was still appealing.
After a few meetings through the day, moved out of the hotel early evening at 4:00 pm as the sun sets as early as 4:30 or 5:00 pm. Paan Bazaar is really an old time bazaar with old buildings and shops possibly more than 50 years old. Again a good feeling of the old time areas of India. While looking for souveneirs I was shown some unique silk sarees obviously way too prohibitive to even think of touching them. Bought a bamboo beer mug and a couple of bamboo sling purses for family at home. Also, got a Gamosa (a kind of a shawl) as a gift from the hosts over there. Descided to buy the silk saree when we actually start generating some revenue from Assam.
The next day continued similarly in meetings but the lunch organised by the hosts was one of the best non veg thalis I have had in quite some time. The place we were taken to was Paradise Hotel somewhere in the city very close by to our meeting place.
We were served a thali with the best of the Assam food and here is the menu:
The thali was served with 2 bowls of rice, a yellow fish curry, a chicken curry, a fish chutney, a dry spinach dish, a classic daal called Khaar. This I was told was authentic as the Assamese counterpart said they have it at home regularly but this would be most enjoyed.
While eating I realised the place of the Bhot Jhalokia, world’s hottest chilli , had the most basic and non spicy food. Thats possibly where the link of the co-author always having a raw green chilly with food now connects. The hottest chilli makers in the world have their food with very little or no chilli at all, which in fact makes the food more flavourful as the chilli according to me suppresses a lot of other flavours, when used in excess.
I am not a regular fish eater and more or less a fillet eater; I have always stayed away from a bony fish. I now had a bony but fleshy rohu cooked in a yellow sour-ish curry (awlakhi). I have started to develop taste towards fully mustardy and sour gravy but believe me it tastes really great with a fish in it. There is some love story between a sour gravy and fish cooked in it.
There was one more dish in the plate which was also typical to Assam, Aloo pithika; it’s basically mashed and spiced potatoes. The simplicity of flavours of the thali made one feel at some Assamese home.
The icing on this experience was that the restaurant was playing Bhupen Hazarika songs, although not in Hindi. His voice in Rudaali and other private hindi albums did make me a fan of his.
The next morning; walked down the Brahmaputra; behind the High Court and laid hands on the Bhut J0lokia and the special large lemons available in that part of India.
A few more meetings and another lunch and this time there was this tiny little fish fired and ready to be eaten flesh and bone. I have had mandeli in Pune and Mumbai but this Pooti fish was eaten with the bones and there were so many on the plate. By the time I managed to take the photograph, the plate was half empty. Followed that up with a classic daal rice combination and Assam food was done with for us.
Somebody had suggested to try Joha rice from Assam so picked that up from an organic food mall on the way to the airport.