Tasting Organic Farm Produce @ Pabhoi Greens

While I got the opportunity to travel down to Guwahati and savour some wonderful Assamese delicacies at Gam’s Delicacy, Paradise, this time I got an opportunity to stay in Tezpur, Assam for a almost two weeks. The University Guest House in the sprawling Tezpur University Campus offered home cooked food but a friend and colleague A introduced us to his friend Neelam who runs an organic farm. He had come to the University to collect some seeds from our friend. Not only did we kept a handful of lettuce and other greens to prepare salad with our meals , we ( a group of three enthusiasts) lapped the opportunity to spend a night at Pabhoi Greens.

After a hectic day we escaped from Tezpur to explore Pabhoi Greens.  As the driver navigated the narrow roads one could see a silhouette of tea plants guiding us along the road on our way to Pabhoi.  It was pitch dark and with half sleepy eyes we could imagine the green cascade of plants that welcomed us when you reached Pabhoi. As the driver parked the car a group of 6 dogs welcomed us.

Neelam (the owner) came down with a miner’s torch and led us to the portico facing two large water tanks. We glided into the comfort of the bamboo chair and sipped Assam Tea, chuckled at the sight of fireflies and soaked ourselves in the silence of the night. The dinner beckoned us to shift to the dining hall where Manju didi had cooked a spread for us. As we entered the salad spread sitting pretty with organic farm greens was particularly exciting. The Bengali soul in me wanted to have as much Kagchi/ Gandharaj Lebu ( a variety of lemon). The salad spread was prepared of handpicked greens and vegetables from the farm.  As we made our way through the salad the piping hot Joha Rice (a local variety of rice) was served to us, followed by pulses, mixed vegetables. The stars of the meal were Maasor Tenga and Fried Chicken. The taste of the freshly caught fish is something that you crave when you stay in a city which has polluted its river beyond rescue. Fish Tenga as you might know is a sour gravy prepared of tomatoes and because of its sour taste it is called tenga( Assamese word for sour). For all those who want to prepare this Assamese delicacy take a look at the detailed step by step post by Ruprekha on Fish Tenga (http://rupascloset.blogspot.in/2011/04/assamese-delicacies-8maasor-tenga.html?showComment=1365188708469#c1848959286321035958).

For other Assamese Delicacies the following group on facebook is very interesting:- https://www.facebook.com/assameserecipes?fref=ts

This was followed by Fried Chicken. After our dinner spread Neelam took us around the farm. He introduced us to the youngest member in the cattle-shed- Daisy who wanted to break her shackles and prance round. Babu the head of the family was sober and exuded much of an interest with H.  As we were lazying around, we spotted an owl and Neelam showed us how the “well” functioned as a treatment site for the poisonous snakes. We decided to call it a day as Neelam shared anecdotes from trainings he organised for students pursuing their studies on agriculture and his trails across North East. While A asked him to show us the pictures from his previous tours, I snuggled in the comforts of the pillow with a vivid image of a bright orange butterfly with black dotes.

Realising that we have decided to call it a day, A and Neelam retired to their dens. The pitter patter sounds of the rain on the rooftop followed in an hour later with the whistling sounds of the storm. While my mind ached to sit and soak the rain kissed night my body ached for some sleep. Giving way to temptation I woke up to a bright day. H had already taken a tour of the farm and AI was getting ready as well.  Neelam gave us a guided tour of the shades where varieties of tomatoes, greens were waiting to be transferred to the field.

Neelam Dutta @ Pabhoi Greens

Neelam Dutta @ Pabhoi Greens

He told of us the various training sessions he was planning to organise with students across universities.  He also showed us the eco-hatch project he had initiated few years ago.

It was time to bid adieu to Pabhoi and head back for Tezpur after a nice creamy rich homemade curd and some toasts.

Neelam has changed the face of the farm that his father had invested some twenty five years ago. He has been instrumental in using organic methods in farming and feels there is chasm between the farm produce and its marketing which needs to be worked upon. To know more about Pabhoi Greens you can visit :- http://www.pabhoigreens.com/Services.html

Fishery Project @ Pabhoi Greens

Fishery Project @ Pabhoi Greens

I am hoping Neelam kicks of a home stay project soon so that itiriti readers could also have a taste of organic produce.

Contact for further details : Neelam Dutta, Pabhoi, Biswanath Charali, ASSAM.


Photos by Amiya Kumar Das.


Tasting cultures along the Indian coastline

K and I on our way back from a play on a bright Saturday afternoon stumbled into a bookshop. As soon as I entered the bookshop I quietly escaped into the travelogue section and started flipping through the pages of “Following Fish”. True to the title, the author Samanth Subramanian follows the fish across the Indian coast and takes you on a tour from Bengal to Gujarat.  Each chapter is devoted to the ways in which fish is much more about gastronomic delight. While it is as much about taste of fish, it is also about tasting cultures. This is why I would recommend this book to every readers of this blog. You don’t have to eat fish to love this book; you have to be curious about tasting cultures that dot the Indian coastline to enjoy this book.

The trail of fish begins with Bengal – and its most prized fish – Hilsa with a subtle indication of how this fish is much more than food. It is also about identity of East Bengal and West Bengal. Samanth Subramanian takes us through a whirlwind tour of the various fish markets of Kolkata before stopping and stumbling on the Ganga Hilsa. The author’s self reflexive account makes the book an interesting read. This is particularly so in the second chapter that documents the Bathini Goud’s festivities on thrusting live fish with secret medicine – a treatment for asthma that has become part of the state calendar in Hyderabad as it attracts thousands of people who come for this treatment.The chapter documents the medical treatment that is offered to thousands for free amidst belief and scepticism.  Each of the chapter seamlessly weaves in local history, politics into the making and survival of cuisine. Samanth Subramaniam takes us through the world of Tuticorn to discuss in detail the history of conversion, the tension between the church and chieftain to tell us how Tuticorn, despite being the strong Portuguese stronghold  retained their distinct cuisine.  The gem dish of the region is Fish Podi- dried fish powder which is eaten with rice and dollops of ghee. The spicy trail of fish has just begin as  the author takes us through the  Kerala’s toddy shops and their treatment of fish and I already have my eyes set on the Alleppey shop mentioned in the book in my next visit to Kerala, followed by the stunning revelation of the President of the Managlore Fishermen’s Cooperative,  Secretary of National Fish Workers Federation and of the Coastal Karnataka Fishermen Action Committee that he does not eat fish as the author is treated to the Mangalore fish curry in his house. The author then winds off his fishing trail through his accounts on angling, and his accounts of fishermen in Goa who has taken to other professions because of depleting fishes in Goa’s coastline due to overfishing. The author then takes us to the hustle bustle of the Sassoon Dock in Bombay with his guide Yeshi followed by a stopover at the shrine of Mumbadevi Temple in Zaveri Bazaar to a nice hot meal of fish curry at Anantashram ( one of the remaining khanawals) , a peep into the culinary affair in a Koli household and finally taking us through the markers of Gomanatak and Malvani cuisine. The final chapter stops with the crafting of fishing boats in Gujarat- which supplies much of the fish that finds its way to fish markets across India and in our kitchens and is also renowned for crafting fishing boats.

The book manages to unravel the history, geography of “fish” beyond its gastronomic qualities which makes it an interesting read.

Book Review: Subramaniam, Samanth. 2010. Following Fish: Travels around the Indian Coast. New Delhi: Penguin Books.