In March of 2019, I traveled to the state of Assam in northeast India for the very first time. While I was there, I immersed myself in the beautiful culture and amazing history and found several Assamese Indian dishes that blew my mind. I fell in love with Indian cuisine during my first trip to the country in early 2018. I’ve learned a lot about Indian food since then, but I was blown away by how different Assamese dishes are from the usual Indian fare.
Like Southern Indian cuisine, Assamese cuisine is mostly rice-based and incorporates fresh vegetables and meat. But the dishes in Assam also include things rarely seen in other parts of the country, including river fish, duck, and pigeon.
Upon arriving in the city of Guwahati, I learned that Assamese cuisine is a mix of indigenous cooking styles with regional variations. It’s not as rich in spices as other parts of the country, where up to 500 spices can be used in a single dish.
Despite the relatively low number of spices used, the food is always bursting with memorable and mouthwatering flavors you can’t find anywhere else. Simple preparations are preferred over large, elaborate feasts, and drying and fermentation are used as preservation methods. It all makes for tasty, unpretentious food that will leave your taste buds clamoring for more! These are the 17 Assamese Indian dishes you must eat in Assam.
Guwahati is the largest city in Assam and the largest urban area in northeast India. It lies along the southern bank of the Brahmaputra River and is known as “The City of Temples,” but it’s also a foodie paradise with tons of authentic street food and restaurant options. These are my favorite Assamese Indian dishes in Assam!
If you visit Guwahati without trying an authentic Upper Assamese Mughlai thali, you’re not doing it right. For the best in the city, head over to Michinga Ethnic Cuisine, which offers Naga, Khasi, and other Asian cuisines in addition to Assamese.
Their Upper Assamese Mughlai thali is almost like a combination of the rice-heavy southern thalis and bread-rich northern thalis. It comes with nine dishes, including pulao with eggplant, paneer kofta, chicken korma, chicken cutlet, paneer, and mutton in an Assamese gravy.
You really can’t go wrong with this thali. The buttery paneer melts in your mouth, gravy and all, and the Johar rice in the pulao is very similar to couscous. The yellow-mustard-and-green-chili chutney has some real spice to it, and the crispy paneer kofta has an almost meat-like texture to it. The curry on the paneer kofta is exquisite!
I also recommend the chicken korma, which is so tender it practically falls off the bone. One of my favorite things to eat in the world is eggplant, and the one at Michinga Ethnic Cuisine was fried and coated in gram flour. The spices that the cooks used in it were fantastic! But the star of the meal is the mutton, which is juicy and unbelievably tender. If you can, suck the marrow out of the bones–there’s a lot of flavor in it!
You can use a fork to eat if you want, but I always advocate eating with your hands. Something about getting your fingers messy just makes the food taste better. Whether you choose to add the sweet, cardamom-rich mutton curry to the pulao or have the pulao with one of the paneer dishes, there’s no wrong way to enjoy this thali.
By itself, the thali costs 450 rupees, or roughly $6.30 USD. A glass of water will add another 20 rupees. With such a filling, tasty, and inexpensive meal, it’s no wonder it’s one of the best Assamese Indian dishes in Guwahati!
After nightfall in Guwahati, carve out some time to visit Nehru Park, a beautiful recreational area in the city. There are lots of street food offerings from the 25-or-so vendors there, but the main thing you should look for is the spicy chicken chow.
This chow is basically an Indian version of Chinese noodles. The protein in the dish comes from crispy chunks of chicken lollipop, which is a deep-fried chicken drumstick that is known for its vivid red hue. It also contains chilies, carrots, and onion throughout.
The chicken chow is pretty rich in spices, and the chilies give it a nice kick of heat. It’s enough to tingle your lips and tongue, but isn’t so overbearing that it’s uncomfortable. I love a bit of heat in everything I eat, so it’s no surprise that it’s one of my favorite Assamese Indian dishes. This dish is a must!
If you have room for dessert after the chow, search the area for a stall selling a unique and strangely American-esque creation: Oreo waffles. Yes, you head me. Oreo waffles. As a chocolate fanatic, there was no way I could pass it up, especially when I saw that the waffle is topped with chocolate sauce, whipped cream, crushed Oreos, and chocolate chips.
The waffle is thick and made from a sweet batter, while the whipped cream is so thick and decadent, it almost feels like ice cream! I recommend sharing this rich dessert with friends, as it’s pretty big and comes sliced into nine sugary pieces. It seems like your everyday sugar overload at first, but as you eat it, you begin noticing touches that are uniquely Indian. It makes for a dessert you can only get in this part of the world. Best of all, you’ll only have to shell out 100 rupees, or about $1.43 USD, for it.
Earlier, we talked about the amazing Assamese Mughlai thali at Michinga Ethnic Cuisine. But there is another thali in town that gives it a run for the best thali in Guwahati. I’m talking about the Parampara Thali at Paradise Restaurant. It may be small in size, but it makes up for it in flavor and authenticity.
This amazing thali is made up of so many of my favorites when it comes to Indian cuisine: mutton, fish, an earthy mashed potato dish called aloo pitika, and dal. It also includes chicken, a vegetable dish called khar with bits of papaya, vegetable fry, and rice. It also contains an Assamese favorite: pigeon.
I personally found the pigeon to be very bony, but the dark sesame curry it had been slathered with more than made up for it. It was one of the biggest highlights of the meal and fave the pigeon a unique, almost goat-like flavor!
Speaking of bones, the fish tenga is filled with them, but that’s to be expected with river fish. This fish is steamed inside a banana leaf with mustard sauce. The end result is a soft, tender fish filet that is so buttery it melts the moment it touches your tongue. Together with the mustard sauce, it’s one of my favorite seafood dishes in India!
Along the road between Guwahati and Manas National Park is the Prince Dhaba and Family Restaurant. Dhabas are restaurants that can be found along roads throughout India. They cater to truck drivers who travel from state to state for work, so they often serve up a wide range of foods from all over India.
At this particular dhaba, there is a fantastic local fish curry that I couldn’t stop thinking about long after my last bite. The fish came from a pond nearby, so it was fresh and had never been frozen. The flaky meat of the fish came in a thick and sweet gravy that was super light considering how thick it was. It was a flavor bomb and a wonderful mix of textures that made my mouth water!
Just remember to pull the fish apart slowly and methodically before you eat it, as it’s full of bones and spines. Once you’ve gotten rid of any bones, dive right in! It’s one of the best Assamese Indian dishes you can have anywhere!
Tezpur may be a relatively small city with roughly 100,000 residents, but make no mistake. Everyone traveling through northeast India should make a stop in this ancient city, which is thought by many to be thousands of years old. In fact, the city’s name, which translates to “City of Blood,” played a major role in a mythical battle between the armies of Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna. In addition to that, Tezpur also has a food culture that’s just as rich as its history and culture. These are my favorite Assamese Indian dishes in Tezpur!
To try another of the best Assamese Indian dishes in Tezpur, head over to the Radheshyam Hotel, which is famous for its chai and sweets. Another dish they are known for is the pyaaj kachori, which is essentially a fried onion fritter.
This small but delicious dish is made up of a dough with a crispy exterior, and multiple soft layers on the inside. Even though it’s fried, it’s not greasy at all. It also contains a very tasty masala and has fantastic onion flavor throughout. It’s a wonderful snack to eat while you’re sightseeing around Tezpur!
One of my favorite things to do when I travel through India is to try a thali in every city. I love seeing and tasting the regional differences. One of my favorite thalis in Assam is the non-veg Assamese thali at Khorika – The Ethnic Restaurant in Tezpur. This thali is a beast, with over 20 delicious items that range from a light dal to fatty duck to a mouthwatering mutton curry.
As an eggplant lover, you must try the amazing spicy eggplant dish that’s included. There’s also a thick bean curry called rajma, fresh vegetables like haak, a briny river fish curry, and aloo with carrots and onion.
The dishes I couldn’t get enough of were the mutton curry, which contained lots of spices and a fantastic masala, and a dark and rich chicken curry. If you’ve never had mutton in India, you must try it. No matter how many times I try it in different cities around the country, it’s always a highlight. And the chicken curry was so good it had me cleaning every bone!
During my second trip to India in November of 2018, I tried a unique dish in the city of Hyderabad called bamboo chicken. This amazing chicken curry is prepared by cooking raw chicken inside a bamboo shoot with onions, green chilies, turmeric, garlic, ginger, garam masala, and other spices. It was so good that I jumped at the chance to have it again at Arunima’s Takeaway, an Indian and Lebanese restaurant in Tezpur.
The thing I love the most about bamboo chicken is how much bamboo flavor gets infused into the meat. It’s a unique flavor that I love already, and then it’s bolstered by the smokiness that comes along with the cooking process. Together with the cocktail of spices, it’s a near-unbeatable combination that you should not miss under any circumstance! Best of all, it won’t break the bank, as a generous portion costs only 140 rupees (about $2 USD).
To try another of the best Assamese Indian dishes in Tezpur, stay put at Arunima’s Takeaway and order their incomparable banana leaf chicken. This dish is an amazing, pancake-like chicken cutlet that is cooked inside a folded-up banana leaf with chilies.
Like the bamboo chicken, the flavor of the plant it’s cooked in permeates the meat so much that it actually changes the flavor of the chicken. Despite the fact that the chicken is cooked along with chilies, the dish has almost no heat to it whatsoever. What it does have, though, is mountains of divine banana leaf flavor, which more than makes up for the lack of spice. This is yet another dish in Tezpur you can’t miss!
Kaziranga National Park is a mecca for tourists looking for a glimpse of the animals that live in northeast India, including elephants, rhinos, and the elusive Bengal tigers. But, believe it or not, it’s also a pretty fantastic place to find some tasty Assamese Indian dishes you won’t forget!
On the route between Tezpur and Kaziranga National Park is the town of Jakhalabandha, where many tourists catch transportation to the park. If you find yourself in this town for a couple of hours, grab a meal at the Maharaja Hotel.
If I lived in India, I could be a vegetarian simply because of how amazing their veg dishes are. One of my favorites is paneer, which is a non-melting cottage cheese that is a staple in many veg dishes. The veg thali at the Maharaja hotel contains not one but two incredible paneer dishes: paneer masala and paneer bhurji. The paneer bhurji contains tomatoes, onions, and chilies, and is a lot like scrambled eggs!
There’s also a thick and spicy dal fry with tomatoes, as well as a delicious aloo matar gobi, which is a potato and tomato salad with masala and herbs. You’re also given a puri, which is a leavened flatbread you can stuff with other items. I recommend stuffing yours with the paneer masala, paneer bhurji, and dal fry. It’s one of the most unreal flavor combinations I had in Assam!
There are several resorts where Kaziranga National Park visitors can stay, and they’re all suited to different needs. If you choose to stay at the Wild Grass Resort, you’ll get the unique opportunity to enjoy a home-cooked meal in a local’s home.
My meal consisted of an Assamese jungle thali made up of 16 items, including dal with rice, sautéed potatoes with onion, tiny fish, spicy green vegetables, and more. I loved the creamy and spicy eggplant mash, which was heaven on my palate. Another favorite of mine was the chicken curry with potato, which was tender and bursting with flavor.
I always love trying dals around India, and the dal with elephant apple and white rice was yet another winner. I couldn’t get enough of it. Best of all, though, was the experience of meeting the locals who graciously welcomed me into their home. They were so kind and warm and made me feel right at home. There’s nothing quite like Indian hospitality!
Speaking of sensational thalis, do not miss the enormous thali that’s served at the Kaziranga Orchid & Bio-Diversity Park. This extraordinary thali is made up of a whopping 28 items! Note that, while the park advertises it as a veg thali, it actually isn’t 100% vegetarian. That said, it is a gastronomical roller coaster that will have your taste buds hanging on for dear life, because all of the items are out of this world!
The earthy black lentils are tasty and perfectly spiced, while the sweet khar is literal perfection. Don’t skip out on the yellow dal, which is nice and light, or the tender eggplant, which was a definite highlight! There’s also an amazing brinjal chutney made from eggplant, a meaty jackfruit, duck eggs, and some sweet and tangy starfruit.
Of course, a thali this massive comes with an assortment of chutneys, including a spicy mint chutney that I couldn’t help but fall in love with. The lone non-veg item is the ceviche-like black snakehead fish chutney, which adds a brininess to anything you eat it with. Just one look at this masterpiece of a thali will tell you why this is one of my favorite Assamese Indian dishes of all-time!
Some have claimed that the small Assamese city of Jorhat doesn’t hold much interest to travelers, but I have to disagree. For such a small city, there are tons to do there, and it’s a fantastic place to base yourself out of for day trips to places like Majuli Island and Sivasagar. But the city itself also has a thriving food scene that I implore everyone to check out when they visit Assam! These are just a couple of my favorite Assamese Indian dishes in Jorhat.
Another city, another thali! When you visit Jorhat, be sure to have a meal at Chouka Ethnic Cuisine, a restaurant that’s popular among the locals. They offer so many incredible dishes that I couldn’t choose just one! I wound up combining their Upper Assamese veg thali with several other mouthwatering dishes.
By itself, this thali is already outstanding. One of my favorites was an amazing papaya soup, and I couldn’t get enough of the peppery and soupy dal. You also can’t go wrong with the chunky fried potatoes or the black rice pudding. The highlight of the thali, though, was the eggplant, garlic, and potato pitika, which was an intense mix of textures and flavors that had my taste buds dancing!
But the best part of the meal were the dishes I ordered on the side. The first was a tender chicken that came bathed in a dark, rich sesame curry. There are no words for how tasty and unique the curry was. The mutton with papaya and potatoes came in an unreal brown curry. The papaya gave it a nice sweetness, and as always, I fought tooth and nail to get every bit of marrow out of the mutton bones. These Assamese Indian dishes were on another level!
But the best item, the pork wrapped in the banana leaf, was a whole new kind of deliciousness. The incredible banana leaf flavor had been infused into everything wrapped inside the leaf. It bolstered the natural flavors of every item and turned them up to a thousand! Visiting Jorhat is worth it just to have this incredible pork!
When you travel to northeastern India, you’ll probably notice that some of the dishes have Chinese influences, like the chow we had back in Guwahati. Another dish that contains flavors from the Middle Kingdom is the spicy momos at Break Time Restaurant in Jorhat. These Szechwan-inspired morsels are the best momos I’ve ever eaten!
The momos are steamed and then stir-fried in a spicy red chili sauce. Despite that, they stay crunchy on the outside, while the chicken inside remains juicy and tender. They definitely have some heat to them, so they may not be the best option for those who don’t like spice. That said, I found the spice level to be perfect. They were hot enough to give you a tingle across your lips and tongue without being so hot that you’re begging for milk. They’re a definite highlight of any food tour in Jorhat!
As the cradle of Assamese culture and the home of the famous Majuli Island mask-makers, it’s easy to overlook Majuli Island if all you’re after is food. However, that would be a mistake. This huge river island just an hour-long ferry ride from Jorhat has some pretty remarkable food within its shores. My favorite can be found in Majuli Town!
As I mentioned earlier, Majuli Island has a lot to offer those seeking immersion into the Assamese neo-Vaishnavite culture. I’m a firm believer that you can’t truly understand a location unless you explore its culture, history, and food. Some of the best food on the island is at Bitupoan Bhojoalaya Restaurant in Majuli Town.
Their unbelievable veg thali contains 10 items, including a wonderful dal with rice, small potatoes, and a flavorful green bean curry with peas. The green bean curry goes extremely well with the banana meat, rice, and potatoes. I recommend going in with your hands, mixing them all together, and diving right in.
There’s also a fantastic grated bamboo chutney that’s really spicy and refreshing! Of course, the thali isn’t the only thing you can get at Bhojoalaya Restaurant. I also recommend trying their chicken curry, which is a buttery flavor explosion! This curry that coats the chicken is tasty enough to drink!
With its incredible mix of awe-inspiring historical sites from the Ahom Kingdom and its amazing restaurants, visiting Sivasagar is a must. This small city at the confluence of the Brahmaputra and Lohit Rivers is a treasure trove for travelers. I ate some of my favorite Assamese Indian dishes of all-time there!
Roughly midway between Jorhat and Sivasagar is Dhaba Nilkantha, a roadside restaurant that has a large, dining hall and private rooms. After you enjoy some strong Danish beers, I recommend ordering some of their crispy and fatty pork fry. It’s similar to pork rinds or chicharron and comes with spicy chilies and onion.
I recommend ordering their Upper Assamese Thali and sharing it with friends, as there are lots of things to try. The eggplant was fantastic, as were the dals and the aloo. The thali also contained a bony but magnificent duck fry, which was served in a dark brown gravy. The meat is so buttery, but you have to eat around the bones to get to it. It has a texture and flavor similar to liver, which is another of my favorite foods.
I also suggest trying the tiny potatoes, orange dal with rice, and spicy herb chutney with bamboo shoots. Another unbelievable highlight was the rich, brown chicken curry, which is light on spice but bursting with flavor. These Assamese Indian dishes will have you in gastronomical heaven!
It may be the last item on my list but make no mistake. The pork feast I enjoyed at Heritage Jaysagar Restaurant in Sivasagar may just be my favorite meal I had in Assam. When you arrive at the restaurant, I recommend eating out on the pier so you can enjoy the view across Joysagar Tank, a large, man-made lake in the city.
There, you must try the aloo pitika, a spicy dish made up of mashed potatoes, chilies, onions, and tomatoes. There’s also a fantastic yellow dal with chilies and herbs and a fern that reminded me a lot of spinach and kale. You also shouldn’t miss the chicken curry. It was covered in an amazing, brownish-green curry with potatoes and tomatoes.
But this meal was all about the pork. When I say this is one of my favorite pork meals of all-time, I’m not exaggerating. The first of the two pork dishes I’ll talk about is the boiled pork with bamboo and chilies. The pork was served in a soupy broth that contained amazing Chinese flavors that danced around my palate and made me crave more!
That said, the dish that truly had me salivating was the bamboo pork. Like the bamboo chicken in Tezpur, the meat is cooked inside a bamboo stalk with a phenomenal curry. The curry gave the pork a deep green color and some of the most amazing flavors I’ve ever had in India. Adding to the flavor was the fattiness directly from the pork itself. All of it together was a perfect storm of flavors that you must taste to truly understand. To add a crunchy element, try the bamboo pork with some papad, but it honestly doesn’t need it. It’s one of the best Assamese Indian dishes on the planet all on its own!
When you visit India, there are a handful of states most travelers hit: Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and other popular states. But I implore you to carve out some time in your itinerary to explore Assam. Not only does it have a beautiful culture, and warm people willing to share it with visitors, it also boasts some of the tastiest food in the country. I was blown away by the foods I tried there and I believe you will be, too. Book a trip to Guwahati today to begin your Assamese food adventure!
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