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Assamese elephant apple (otonga) with lentils

I visited my Sister-in-law’s mothers house in Guwahati at the end of the year and was fortunate to be able to spend time in her kitchen learning some truly Assamese recipes. I visited the local market and the variety of fresh and unique ingredients, colocasia stems, elephant apples, varieties of red and green amaranth leaves, garlic chives and so much more, took me by surprise. I was fortunate that her wonderful cook, Morumi was a wonderful teacher and so knowledgeable about the ingredients and food. What a joy to learn and enjoy local delicacies. One of the aspects of travel that I enjoy is local cuisine, and I was fortunate to experience it from the local vegetable market to the kitchen and to the tables. What a treat. Elephant apples are a relatively unknown fruit that is found throughout Southern Asia including Northern India. Raw the fruit is pickled but ripe it is used in jams and some curries. It gets it name as elephants love the fruit, feasting on it till they are full. If the elephant apples is overripe and fermented, they have quite a party. This dal was absolutely fabulous. The lentils were creamy and had a wonderful and delicate tartness from the wood apples that is complimented by the spices and light heat. This local recipe is elegant and the unique sourness is refreshing. For more recipes from

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1/2 cup red lentils (masoor dal)

1/2 cup yellow mung dal

Salt, to taste

3 cups water

2 tablespoons mustard oil

3-4 dried red chilies

1 tablespoons whole panch poran spice mix

1/2 cup onions, sliced

1 tablespoon ginger paste

2 tablespoon garlic paste

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

1/2 cup water

2 green chilies, sliced longitudinally

1 large elephant apple, peeled and cubed

Salt, to taste

1 tablespoon butter

Cilantro, to garnish

In a pot, pressure cooker or Instapot cook the lentils with water and salt till well cooked and the lentils break down. Set aside.

Meanwhile cut the elephant apples, they are a very hard fruit and it takes some effort. Cut and peel the elephant apples discarding the inner seeds and outer green skin. Cut into 2 inch cubes and smash lightly with a mortar to break them down slightly.

In a large pot or wok, heat the mustard oil on medium flame and add the dried red chilies and whole panch poran mix and sauté for 20 seconds till lightly colored. Add the onions, and fry till the onions are browned, about 4 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and cook for an additional minute till the ginger no longer smells raw. Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander and sauté for 20 seconds. Add the water, stir to mix in with the cooked onions and spices and add the elephant apples. Cook for 15 minutes till the apples are cooked through and have got soft. They will be very fibrous but the inner sour meat should be cooked.

Add the lentils into the cooked elephant apples and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste for salt and bring to a consistency of your liking, this is usually had as a thin dal.

Serve hot with rice.

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1 Comment

Quite a discovery ! A good narrative too

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