The first time I had Assamese food, it was at Gitika Saikia’s home. I relished the sour tenga, burned my tongue on a bhut jolokia pickle and watched, fascinated, as she cooked chicken in bamboo shoots. It was an afternoon, and meal, to remember.
Recently, I had another such meal, courtesy the two month-old O’ Tenga. The newest delivery space dedicated to just Assamese food is run by by friends Priyangi Borthakur and Joyee Mahanta, out of the latter’s Andheri kitchen. “Ever since we moved here, we’ve always complained about the lack of Assamese restaurants, and how much we missed home food. A few months back, we decided to stop complaining and start something ourselves,” says Mahanta.
Their menu has it all. There’s khar – made by filtering water through the ashes of sun-dried banana peels; xaak bhaji – lightly seasoned green, leafy vegetables; dail – lentils; tenga – a light and tangy curry; pitika – mashed potatoes; besides fish, chicken and mutton dishes. “We’ve been experimenting with recipes for the last five months, trying out recipes from our mothers, grandmothers and aunts. Sometimes, we’ve tried out five different recipes for one dish before settling on what we liked best,” says Mahanta.
This attention to detail reflects in the food. On placing the order, am advised to start with the khar – it is alkaline and so settles the stomach, and end with the acidic/ tangy tenga. The Omita Khar (Rs 180) is like a warm, thick soup with a faint hit of ginger. Kosu Xaak Jalukia (Rs 125), on the other hand, is a light curry made with colocasia leaves and black pepper.
The Koldil Bhaji (Rs 200) is made with banana flower – something I haven’t eaten before – and is a crunchy and dry preparation, with grated coconut adding in extra texture and depth. Dal gets a delicious upgrade in the Thekera Diya Mixed Dail (Rs 150), with mangosteen adding in lovely sour-sweet notes.
The duo sources many of the ingredients from home; they’ve even identified a woman who makes the water that is used in khar. “Besides elephant apple, we get lime, kajinemu (long green lemons), guti aloo (baby potatoes), jaggery, bamboo shoot, bhut jolokia and rice from home,” shares Mahanta.
These dishes all lead up to my find for the meal, the Til Diya Murgi Mangxo – tender chicken cooked in a comforting black sesame paste. The Pura Maas Pitika (Rs 120) was a tasty mash of grilled fish, potatoes, onions, coriander and chilli – soft, crunchy and smoky. The Aloo Pitika (Rs 50), meanwhile, had the slightest hint of mustard. I ate both these plain, but they are actually meant to be eaten with the Poita Bhaat (Rs 120), a fermented rice mixture with mustard oil and green chilli.
The meal ends with a surprise. The traditional Assamese rice pudding Payox was light on the sweetness, and had the added flavour from camphor. O’ Tenga may have just started but people are already jamming their phone lines for deliveries. With food this good, it’s no surprise.
Call 9833962210 (24 hours prior notice needed); Delivery restricted to Andheri (West); check O’ Tenga for more details