Assamese cuisine is known for its simplicity. We depend on what is available during the season and to be honest we are blessed with an abundance of biodiversity. Even the methods adopted for cooking are simple and sustainable. Apart from earthenware, hollow bamboo shoots serve the purpose of cooking rice and even protein. Herbs and leaves that grow in abundance in kitchen gardens are used to flavor dishes.
Sesame is one such ingredient, it is used in our rice cakes stuffed with sesame and jaggery also called ‘Pitha’ made especially during Bihu. Along with jaggery it is rolled into balls or made into brittles. Another delicacy is Local chicken cooked with sesame. Sesame is also a used to make chutneys.
Assamese cuisine is characterized by the pungency of mustard oil, the freshness of herbs and sourness of it curries often called ‘tengas’ (sour curries).
And everything gets balanced with a good dose of alkali (khar). Even the soda used in cooking is prepared at home using banana pseudostem. A right identifier for an Assamese is this balanced diet made up of such natural and magic ingredients.
And a few weeks ago when I was feeling a little lost. I had to look for inspiration. I wanted to cook up a few dishes, during Bihu.
All that came to my mind was ‘til diya murgi’ – chicken cooked in sesame paste. The black sesame makes the dish look unique due to its resulting black color.
Nowadays we do find a lot of dishes with black hue, but different ingredients are used to develop the color – e.g., activated charcoal, black sesame, etc. which are natural food coloring agents and rightfully so.
We usually cook this dish with free-range local chicken. As it’s not readily available, I decided to prepare this recipe with potatoes. So, here is the recipe for til diya aloo or potatoes cooked in sesame paste.
You could enjoy this dish as a side or with rotis, parathas but we had it with some dal and rice.
Turned out to be such a comforting meal. Try it…will never regret an Assamese recipe.
Black Sesame Potatoes
Preparation Time: 20 Mins
Cooking time: 15 Mins
Yield: serves 2-3
Potatoes – 5 to 6
Sesame seeds 2 tbsp
Black peppercorns 1 tbsp
Ginger 1 tbsp (chopped)
Garlic 4-5 cloves
Cumin powder 1tsp
Paanch phoran (mixture of 5 seeds cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, caraway seeds)
Mustard oil 2 tbsp
- Soak the sesame seeds and peppercorns overnight. Blend them along with a little water they were soaked in, to a coarse paste.
- Boil the potatoes till they are partly cooked but firm enough. Fry the cubed potatoes in batches with refined oil.
- Heat mustard oil and add paanch phoran, garlic, and ginger. Add the sliced onions and fry until soft.
- Add the potatoes along with the paste.
- Cover and cook for a minute or so until the potatoes are cooked through.
- Season with salt and garnish with coriander and sliced green chillis.