Bihu: A Culinary Journey Through Assam's Festive Cuisine
Image Credit: Til Pitha

The vibrant state of Assam is home to a rich and diverse culinary tradition, with a cuisine that is deeply influenced by its culture, history, and geography. And at the heart of Assam's culinary heritage lies the colorful and joyous festival of Bihu. Celebrated with great fervor and enthusiasm, Bihu marks the beginning of the Assamese New Year and is a time for families to come together, exchange gifts, and savor the traditional delicacies of Assam.

From sweet and savory snacks to flavorful main courses and refreshing beverages, Bihu's cuisine is a gastronomic delight that offers a unique blend of flavors, aromas, and textures. Each dish is carefully crafted with a combination of locally sourced ingredients and traditional cooking techniques, giving it a distinct taste and character.

Join us on a culinary journey through Assam's festive cuisine and explore the fascinating traditions and flavors of Bihu – from iconic dishes like pithas and laru, to the rich and flavorful Assamese thali. 

Pitha, a rice flour-based fritter, is one of the most iconic Bihu dishes. This sweet or savory snack comes in various shapes and sizes and is usually made with jaggery or sugar. During Bihu, you will find Assamese households preparing a variety of pithas, including til pitha, narikol pitha, and ghila pitha. 

Til pitha is a sweet snack made with sesame seeds, rice flour, and jaggery. It is considered auspicious and is often prepared during Bihu. Narikol pitha, on the other hand, is a savory snack made with grated coconut and rice flour. It is often served with a tangy tomato chutney and is a popular teatime snack in Assam. Ghila pitha, a pancake shaped snack made with rice flour and coconut milk, is another Bihu specialty that is often served with a dollop of ghee. 

Laru, a sweet ball made with jaggery, sesame seeds, and grated coconut, is another popular Bihu snack. It is often prepared in large quantities during Bihu and shared with family, friends, and neighbors as a sign of goodwill and camaraderie.

Bora rice is another Bihu specialty that is a must-try. The thali consists of a variety of dishes such as dal, rice, vegetables, fish curry, and chutneys. Aloo pitika, a mashed potato dish with onions, chilies, and mustard oil, is a traditional side dish that is often served with the thali. Masor tenga, a tangy fish curry made with tomatoes, lemon, and kaji nemu, a local herb, is another must-try during Bihu. 

For those with a sweet tooth, payas, a rice pudding flavored with cardamom and saffron, is a popular Bihu dessert. Narikol laru, made with coconut and jaggery, and rice pudding made with komal saul (a heritage rice variety) are other sweet treats that are often served during Bihu. 

Apong, a traditional rice beer, is a popular Bihu beverage that is brewed in households across Assam. The process of making Apong involves fermenting cooked rice with yeast, which gives it a distinct taste and aroma. During Bihu, Apong is served in bamboo mugs, often decorated with intricate designs and patterns. 

Tea is a beverage that is quintessentially Assamese. Assam is known for producing some of the world's finest teas, and during Bihu, tea is consumed in large quantities. Masala chai, a spiced tea made with ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon, is a popular Bihu beverage that is served hot and steaming. 

Besides the food and beverages, Bihu is also a time for cultural festivities and performances. The Bihu dance, also known as the Bihu Naas, is a traditional dance performed by both men and women during Rongali Bihu. This energetic dance is performed to the beat of the dhol, pepa, and gagana and is a celebration of the arrival of spring and the harvesting season. 

Another popular Bihu tradition is the lighting of the meji. The meji is a large bonfire made with bamboo, hay, and wood, and is a symbol of the end of the harvesting season. People gather around the meji, sing traditional Bihu songs, and throw pithas, fruits, and vegetables into the fire as offerings to the gods. 

Bihu is not just a festival of food but also a festival of culture and tradition. The Assamese people take great pride in their culinary heritage and use this festival as an opportunity to showcase their traditional dishes and hospitality. From the sweet and savory snacks to the refreshing beverages and the cultural festivities, Bihu is a celebration of Assam's rich cultural heritage and a must-visit for anyone interested in experiencing the flavors and traditions of this vibrant state.