My kitchen has been a mad frenzy all week, I have been whipping up my favorite Assamese delicacies and when the fishmonger’s aide turns up with a gorgeous katla, I know at once it has to be a masor bilahi tenga for lunch.
Hasty calls to friends, they, for all the stories of lip-smacking Assamese cuisine I have regaled them with over years, have been pleading for a taste of my masor bilahi tenga.
They are thrilled, flex their diaries and are immediately on their way.
That the tenga has a star stature in Assamese cuisine is undeniable. Synonymous with Assamese identity. An embodiment of their undying love for food.
Simple unpretentious and earthy, yet so comforting.
Let me caveat it though.
There are a myriad ways to stir up a masor tenga.
Every household has their own variant that they would swear tastes the best.
And every Grandmother, when cajoled, is willing to happily part with her secret tip.
Yet the fundamentals remain the same.
Fried fish in a runny, slightly tart curry.
Flavoured with fenugreek seeds.
Spiked with tomatoes. Maybe lemon. Or even better outenga (elephant apple).
Some green chillies if you like the heat.
That’s it !!!
Simple and fuss-free.
Masor Bilahi Tenga. Fried freshwater Katla (or Rohu). The earthy sweetness of lauki. The tart of tomatoes. The heady aroma of fenugreek seeds. The anger of green chillies.
This is soul food !!!
Try my recipe this weekend, you shall be left satiated for sure !!!!
Masor Bilahi Tenga (Fish Curry with Tomatoes, Assamese Style)
- 4 pieces rohu or katla fish
- 1 small bottlegourd/ lau/ lauki cut into medium cubes
- 2 big ripe tomatoes peeled and cut into medium sized cubes
- 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 3-4 green chilies slit
- 2 tbsp mustard oil
- salt to taste
- Marinate the fish with a little turmeric powder and salt. Heat mustard oil in a frying pan, fry the fish till light brown. Keep aside on a kitchen absorbent towel.
- To the same pan, add the remaining oil, when smoking hot, throw in the fenugreek seeds and green chillies. Allow the spices release their aroma.
- Now add the lauki cubes, turmeric powder and salt, saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add 1 1/2 cups of warm water. Give a nice loving stir, bring the curry to a gentle simmer.
- Adjust seasonings, gently add the fried fish and cook for a further 5-6 minutes till the lauki is tender.
- This curry shall have a runny consistency, feel free to add more warm water if needed.
- Serve with rice.