The Travel Trunk team spoke to Kashmiri Barkakati Nath, the lady behind the successful promotion of Assamese cuisine down south in Hyderabad. She recently hosted an Assamese pop up at the Marriott, Hyderabad that witnessed immense positive response. She shares this experience, along with the journey so far. We are so thrilled to see the way Northeast cuisine is being promoted across the country. More power to you all!
1. How is the response towards authentic Assamese cuisine in Hyderabad? Would you like to share a few positive/negative experiences?
The recent response to my Assamese Pop Up at Marriott Hotel, Hyderabad, was an eye opener and an amazing experience. I met many people who showed genuine interest in our cuisine and the ingredients that we use. Foodies across the country and world are looking for new experiences. People have become more open to sampling new tastes. The Assamese cuisine uses fresh ingredients, indigenous herbs and very little spices. This naturally makes it healthy. I often relate our cuisine to that of Japan. Like Japanese, we treat food as an art. It is an art to serve and plate food, to understand which dish compliments what. We have these amazing herbs, fruits & vegetables, history and tradition tied to our cuisine. The onus lies upon us to take it from here. I have incorporated modern creative expressions to our traditional dishes, to cater to the new audience. Every cuisine in the world has evolved and so must we.
Fortunately, I haven’t had any negative response so far; almost all guests loved our food. The challenge is to get people to taste our food. There is a lot of misconception about the Northeastern cuisine. The region is huge and extremely diverse. It has eight states, with each state serving various dishes. The real challenge is to make people aware of the cuisine. I mean, look at all our Jolpan and pithas! They are all so healthy, probiotic and gluten free. The “Tekeli Pitha” is a gem. It can be cooked and consumed as a savoury or a sweet dish. One of my guests once said, “It is a disservice by not bringing and letting people know of such an amazing cuisine”!
2. Since when have you been promoting Assamese cuisine? Share a few highlights of your journey so far
I’m always trying to promote our cuisine, especially at big Government events. However, people are very doubtful about serving Oxomiya food at their events. Having said that, I also meet people who want to try something new. A couple of years back, at an International Tourism Mart in Shillong, Assam was given the High Tea servings responsibility. The then managing director asked me to design a menu to showcase our cuisine.
It was an interesting challenge as Assamese cuisine does not have the High Tea concept per se. So, I designed a menu with “pithas” and “larus”, inspired by the “Petit Four” concept. We even served small bite-sized Luci and Aloo Bhaji. There were two sections, “The British Planters Menu” and the “Oxomiya Menu”, with a variety of Assam tea. We did the table décor in red and white, representing “Gamusa”. The response was overwhelming! The representative of India Tourism came and hugged me, when we lead the delegates for the High Tea. The original menu had Patties and Vadas etc. I don’t have anything against them but here is an International delegation and you are representing your State, why would you not serve your own Cuisine? The Korean Team could not stop eating our Gur and coconut Ladoos! That was my biggest moment, it was challenging to execute for a 500+ guest list, but it was overwhelming to receive such appreciation.
4. What is it that you want to achieve?
I want the world outside Assam to know more and more about Northeastern cuisine and its health benefits. People world over are leaning towards eating light, healthy and fresh. We have been always doing that. Our cuisine allows the flavours to shine through, without masking flavours of other ingredients. I served “Mah Proxad” as a salad in little bowls made of banana leaves and told the guests about how it is served in the “Naam Ghar” and the tradition of serving it in auspicious occasions and there was an instant connect with it. Food and stories connect people at the end.
5. Share one of the best moments/stort in this journey of promoting the cuisine.
It has to be these Canadian ladies in Hyderabad. They had their initial reservations about the new cuisine. They also discussed between themselves that the Chef was thin and you can’t trust a thin Chef! But, after eating the meal they were so happy and said it was so different from anything they had eaten in India! It was light and full of flavour! It had to be one of my best experiences. I was also very thrilled when guests asked for second serves of Bamboo shoot chutney.