The beauty of Assamese Cuisine lies in its simplicity. It uses minimal ingredients which are available in the season. These seasonal produces along with freshwater fishes make any Assamese dish delicious and full of health benefits. Take any vegetable which is available in the season and we Assamese will give you a fish curry. Typically, Assamese fish curry is not similar to other Indian fish curries which are often loaded with spices. Instead, we love to use the flavor of the used vegetable to bring out the taste of the fish. As a result, the curry is flavorful yet light on your stomach. Such a curry is potato cauliflower fish curry where every flavor is distinct yet they mingled to give you a delicious treat.
Today’s recipe of potato-cauliflower fish curry is a common dish cooked during winters. As in Assam, the most flavourful cauliflowers are available only in winters, the potato-cauliflower fish curry is a must have item in winters. Of course, with the advent of supermarkets, you can have the vegetable now round the year but no one can beat the taste and flavor of a seasonal vegetable in its original season.
Cauliflower is known to reduce the risk of lung, colon, breast, ovarian and bladder cancers. Recent research from the University of Hawaii reveals that it also provides important cardiovascular benefits.
Cauliflower is also a common produce of the kitchen gardens at every Assamese household during winters. My mother in law, who is a DIY diva, grown a huge batch of cauliflowers in her kitchen garden and as usual, when we went home for holidays, she supplied us the best cauliflowers in the town. After all, how can you get such a vegetable here in this concrete jungle of Guwahati?
But before going to the recipe, have you wondered about this beautiful vegetable once in your life? I mean, yes, we have been eating it since time immemorial but do you know the vegetable is not a native to India? My, my..now that’s a news! Isn’t it?
Culinary Past of Cauliflowers
Cauliflowers are one of the most important winter vegetables in India. However, it is not native to India. Instead, the vegetable was introduced in India in 1822 only. It was a British import but unlike their importers, the vegetable refused to live Indian soil and mingled in Indian cuisine.
Cauliflower, one of the several vegetables in the species Brassica oleracea, has its origin in Cyprus. The first mention of cauliflower can be found in the writings of Pliny in the 1st century of the last millennium in his book Natural History. Next mention of the vegetable was in the 12th century in the writings of Arab Botanists Ibn al-Awwam and Ibn al-Baiter where they described its cultivation in Cyprus for more than 1000 years. It was introduced in Spain, Italy and then in France by the Arab merchants via Syria. (Source) Le Cuisinier françois (1651), one of the most influential cookbooks in early modern French cuisine, written by François Pierre La Varenne has the mention of cauliflower as chouxfleurs. The book that broke the monotony of Italian cuisine in France created such a sensation that cauliflower was immediately hailed as one of the most important vegetables on the royal palates. Cauliflower, along with the cookbook, revolutionized Medieval French Cuisine paving the path for the modern French cuisine. King Louis XIV took so much interest in this particular vegetable that his royal banquets were incomplete without a particular dish presenting cauliflowers in a rich sauce made with veal, ham, and cream, or as part of a stew of sweetbreads, mushrooms and foie grass, as reported by Menon, a food writer from 18th century.
In North America, this vegetable was introduced in the 16th century when immigrants from Europe flocked the country. Cauliflowers were a mere kitchen garden commodity in North America and although it was mentioned in American writings as early as the 1800s, it was only in the 1920s that the cauliflower was commercially cultivated.
The vegetable conquered the whole Europe and finally along with the British came to dominate the British Kingdom along with the Britons. It was the early 19th century when cauliflowers came to India as mere seeds with British farmers so that the officers had the convenience to eat this delicacy while ruling India. The imported seeds were first sown in the Company Bagh in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh under the supervision of Dr. Jemson, the then in-charge of the bagh. As in Britain, the crops are produced during May to July, the first sowing of the seeds of cauliflowers happened according to it. But as India is a tropical country and differs from Britain in geographical and climatic conditions, the result was devastating. The initial failures didn’t deter the company farmers from trying and they thought to adapt some introduced varieties for early production during warmer and humid conditions in the country. They experimented with the harvest season too and altered the sowing time to November- December when India has the colder season is needed to grow the best cauliflowers. This experiment resulted in success and soon the Indians too adapted the vegetable for its delicacy. Now the cauliflowers grown in India, typically known as Indian cauliflower, are different from cauliflowers grown in Europe. They are tolerant relatively hot and humid climate and mature very easily.
Assamese Recipe for Potato Cauliflower Fish Curry
Assamese recipe for potato cauliflower fish curry is easy to make. It doesn’t involve any spice except onions. You can add half a teaspoon of ginger paste but that is optional. Every vegetable used in the curry retains its flavors yet they give you a delicious treat by complimenting each other with the sweetness of fish. I have used tomatoes also in this dish but you can skip it altogether.
- 1 whole cauliflower, cut into medium florets
- 2 potatoes cut into for halves
- 1 tomato cut into small pieces
- 4 pieces of any fish of your choice. (I used rohu fish here)
- 1 medium size onion cut into thin slices
- Green chillies (optional)
- Mustard oil
- Salt and turmeric powder
- Fry the fishes and keep aside.
- Now add the onions in the same oil till they turn golden and soft.
- Add the cut vegetables, salt and turmeric and sauté for 3 minutes on medium heat.
- Cover the wok with lid for 2 minutes.
- Sauté for another 3 minutes and again cover it for 2 minutes.
- Repeat the process unless the vegetables are 3/4th cooked.
- Now add two glasses of water and fishes.
- Let the mix boil and cover with lid.
- Once the vegetables are fully cooked and the gravy thickens slightly, your curry is ready.
- Adjust the salt and garnish with coriander leaves.
- You can add half a teaspoon of ginger paste for extra flavor.