Forget Bamboo Shoot: Indulge In These Delicious Assamese Pickles
Image Credit: Reema Gowalla

Somehow, bamboo shoot has become so synonymous with the cuisines of Northeast India that many a time we fail to look beyond these sprouts. With bamboo groves sprawling across vast swathes of the region, it isn’t very surprising that bamboo shoots - loved (and also hated) for their robust smell and pungent taste - have been a dominant factor in the states’ culinary trails. But this isn’t the entire story. Known to extensively practise the fermenting culture, households in the northeastern part of the country are also a lot into pickling. Huge jars of pickles are churned out almost every season (mostly during the winter months), making the best use of organically grown fruits, vegetables and other ingredients.

While mango, lime, king chilli, gooseberry and bamboo shoot pickles are common, delicious varieties of sweet and salty pickles are made using olives, jujube, jackfruit and more. Contrary to the dominant flavour that bamboo shoot is associated with, these pickles are light in taste and also medicinal at times. Each comes with their unique style of preparation and methods of preservation. 

Shifting the spotlight toward a typical Assamese kitchen, today we bring you an array of local and indigenous pickles that are a must-have if you are planning to make a trip to the state soon. Interestingly, all these unique-in-taste varieties are prepared using a common set of ingredients and spices. Let’s sample a few..              

Bogori Asar (Jujube Pickle)

You’ll always find a jar of jujube pickle in every Assamese home. Jujube is often credited for its yumminess. When tender, the fruit looks and tastes a bit like apples, becoming peculiarly musky at the later stage. Popularly known as bogori asar, this pickle can be prepared both in sweet and savoury style. To get the briny flavour, ingredients used include coriander seeds, cumin, fennel seeds, dry chillies, pepper, turmeric, salt and mustard oil. On the other hand, for the sweet version, jaggery and paas phoron are added along with the above mentioned spices.  

Jolphai Asar (Indian Olive Pickle)

Another favourite in the state, jolphai is the fruit of a tropical tree. It’s a seasonal fruit found in Indo-China and southeast Asia. Unlike the variety native to the Mediterranean region, this ovoid, sour fruit does not give out oil. Sweet or sour, Indian olive pickle (or jolphai asar) is delicious in both forms. Its ingredients include fennel, fenugreek, onion seeds, cloves, chillies, red chilli and turmeric powder, salt and mustard oil. Jaggery is added for the sweet version of the pickle. 

Omora Asar (Hog Plum Pickle)

Carom, fennel, fenugreek and mustard seeds, together with turmeric, red chilly powder, salt and mustard oil are among the ingredients you need to prepare the hog plum pickle or (omora asar). Usually consumed for its medicinal properties, the hog plum, also known as jongli aam, comes from a deciduous tree with an aromatic bark. Its elliptical-shaped leaves are also fragrant. A summer delight, the fruit, however, has no smell. 

Outenga Asar (Elephant Apple Pickle)

We bet you can’t get over the super yummy taste of the sweet and spicy elephant apple pickle (or outenga asar). Easy to prepare, the ingredients for this pickle include mustard seeds, paas phoron, chillies, red chilli powder, jaggery and salt. Also known as dillenia indica, this species belongs to China and tropical Asia. Pickles apart, the sour pulp of this fruit is used in curry, jam and jelly recipes.  

Kothal Asar (Jackfruit Pickle)

Tangy and delicious, jackfruit pickle (or kothal asar) is another seasonal favourite. The spices needed for this pickle is almost the same as for the pickles mentioned above - including fennel, turmeric, red chilli powder, mustard seeds and salt. A fibrous tropical variety native to Asia, Africa and South America, jackfruit is rich in protein, vitamins, calcium, magnesium and potassium.