An Assamese meal at Delicacy, Bangalore
I had just logged onto my Facebook account one afternoon at lunch time when my attention was caught by a picture on my feed. I could make out in one glance that it was an Assamese thali – a meal of Assam’s choicest food served in traditional bell metal dish. A detailed read informed me that the person who had posted the image had just had his lunch at a restaurant called Gam’s Delicacy in Bangalore. A hundred taste buds tingled at that name and I immediately put in a query – is it the same one as in Guwahati? The answer was yes.
That same evening we found ourselves in front of the restaurant.
Gam’s Delicacy has been a favourite of ours in Guwahati. We would drop in there whenever we felt like having home food but did not want to go through the pains of procuring the produce or cooking the meal. The food is extremely low on oil and even after having loads you would not feel heavy. Plus, we could order those really, really traditional Assamese dishes which our grandmothers used to cook. I remember once visiting Guwahati on an office assignment with my North Indian boss and she was completely swept off her feet by the outenga maas (fish curry with elephant apple). In fact, she requested for the same dish when she came to my home for dinner. My Mumbai cousins, on the other hand, who would visit Guwahati perhaps once a year, would gorge themselves on delicacies such as duck and pigeon, dishes which are becoming rare in our own households.
So, it was with utmost hope that I reached the restaurant in Bangalore, located on 4th floor, above Corner House in Koramangala. Ironically, it was set bang opposite another Assamese restaurant, Axomi, across the road. Axomi was the first Assamese restaurant in the city, but perhaps its service is not among the best, to be honest.
I loved the tastefully done bright interiors and the tiny golden xorai at our table. The xorai is a symbol of Assamese hospitality and it just warmed my homesick heart to see it there. The menu came and we ordered a bit conservatively, considering that we were there with my in-laws who wanted to have ‘normal home food’. The thali there is vegetarian and you can have unlimited servings. It has to be paired with your choice of non-vegetarian accompaniments (if you are one) or vegetarian ones. The menu was still under consideration, the restaurant having been opened just two weeks back, and had limited offerings.
We ordered the veg thali for each of us along with bilahi maasor tenga or fish in a light, tangy, tomato curry – a typical Assamese delight, one that you would find in every household. The variety of fish we chose was called borali – a boneless affair. I ordered a fried piece of the same fish for my son. My father-in-law wanted to have chicken, so a chicken cooked with lentils was called for. These, we felt, were enough for a first visit.
I could not wait to sample the food after having ordered it.
“Do you think we will be served soup? The one that they serve in Guwahati, you know,” I nudged the husband.
Before he could reply, four bowls of warm soup were placed before us.
The peppery, ginger soup was a perfect complement to the rainy evening. Our food soon arrived. Five veg thalis were brought around, confusing us since we had ordered only four.
“The small thali is a complementary one for you son, ma’am,” I was told.
That quite impressed me, I must say.
Our thali consisted of a small mound of rice, surrounded by bowls of aloo pitika (mashed potatoes seasoned with chopped onions, chillies and mustard oil), two types of lentils, vegetable/sabji of the day (ridge gourd), dry sabji of the day (stir-fried beans and potatoes) and papaya khar, a dish that can easily be called the national dish of Assam.
There is no particular way to eat this meal and you can mix the rice with the dal and the vegetable of your choice, alternating between the dals and veggies. I have been asked by my non-Assamese friends about our cuisine and for want of better words I have always used the term ‘bland’. In case you agree with me and love your food really spicy, let me tell you how to hot it up. For, we have the hottest chillies in the world, my friends. You could ask for the bhoot jolokia pickle or add a spoonful of bamboo shoot pickle that’s kept on the table. Another rule, do squeeze a lime over your food – the deliciousness will go up notches!
The food turned out absolutely homely and scrumptious. The fried fish was a big hunk of crispy-on-the-outside-meltingly soft-inside kind and I think I had more of it than my son. The fish curry tasted just like home and the same verdict was passed by my father-in-law for the chicken as well. Meanwhile, the husband kept on having extra servings of the joha rice, an aromatic small grained rice that we die for back home, aloo pitika and khar. The meal ended with bowlfuls of kheer as dessert – the sweetness just right – neither too sweet, nor too bland.
Unfortunately, we were too engrossed in our food to take good pictures. Just as we were about to finish our dinner, one of the owners, Pratim Saikia, came to our table to know our feedback and I grabbed the chance to ask him for photographs, if he had any. Of course he had and I have used them in this post with his permission. The young guy has a lot of expectations to live up to from people like us who are die-hard Delicacy fans. I hope he is able to procure good produce in order to maintain the same standard. Logistics is one of the major issues regarding Assamese cuisine – we love our lai xaak (mustard greens), outenga (elephant apple), khorisa (bamboo shoot) and kaji nemu (kafiir lime?), and to get them on a regular basis from home may be difficult. Perhaps he could strike a deal with a vendor here since places like Coorg and Ooty has good scope of growing these ingredients.
So, if you are willing to try a new cuisine, one that is not run-of-the-mill or overtly spicy, do head over to this place. I am sure the food there will dispel a lot of pre-conceived notions that you may have had about Assamese cuisine. Trust me, if you have the food that I had that evening, it would be as good as eating at an Assamese household. Only difference – you would be sitting in Koramangala in Bangalore and not as a guest staying with a local family in Assam.
Do let me know how the experience went for you. Take care!
61, 4th Floor, 1st Main, 7th Block, Koramangala, Bangalore
Phone number - 080 49653153
PS: We had visited the restaurant just when it had started operations. Do bear the teething troubles. The owners are young and they need encouragement and honest feedback to uphold the standards of its parent outlet in Assam.
Images credit: Pratim Saikia (apart from the sad ones that were clicked with my phone camera)