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Tenga gets a global twist - Ramsay gives the world a taste of a popular Assam recipe

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  • Published 6.04.10

Guwahati, April 5: Machor tenga, a sweet-and-sour curry which has come to be known as the leitmotif of the Assamese kitchen, has gone global.

The recipe for the Assamese dish is being beamed to millions of kitchens across the globe through British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who has included fish tenga among one hundred of his favourite recipes in his TV show, Gordon’s Great Escape, aired by BBC’s Channel 4 of the UK.

Assam’s very own master chef Atul Lahkar — the state’s first celebrity food expert who helped Ramsay in his travels through the Northeast last year — said the British chef was “bowled over by the simplicity” of fish tenga.

Ramsay introduced the recipe to foodies as a “light and sour fish curry that is typical of Assam, a state in Northeast India. This particular recipe has been adapted from the dish cooked for me by Atul Lahkar, a chef and restaurateur who showed me that it is possible to cook a delicious meal with very basic resources”.

Traditionally, machor tenga is made with different souring ingredients but Assamese prefer the sharp sourness of the ou tenga, the local name for elephant apples. The fish used varies from small fries to bigger pieces of rohu.

“Elephant apples are specific to the region and are seasonal, available mostly during the autumn months; so for this reason tenga recipes may include other souring agents such as lemon juice, mangosteen or, in this case, tomatoes,” Ramsay explained to his viewers.

However, there is a catch to Ramsay’s tenga recipe.

Assamese foodies based around the world, who are more used to a “plain” recipe, “are not too comfortable with a sour curry laced with pepper, ginger, garlic”.

Dil Deka, based in the US, wrote in the feedback section of the Channel 4 website, “We normally don’t put garlic in tenga. Instead of black pepper, rub the fish pieces with salt and turmeric powder before frying.”

Another netizen, Baishalee Das, said, “A tenga recipe with ginger and garlic is not a tenga after all!”

However, Lahkar — who has experimented with recipes of almost all tribes and sub-tribes of the region — said Ramsay ’s fish tenga is a preparation by the Misings which he had learned at Majuli, the home of the tribe.

“Fish tenga is prepared in different ways by the people of Assam. The recipe Gordon has picked is slightly different in the sense that the Mising recipe also uses pepper to give the curry a slight hotness,” Lahkar said.

Forty-three-year-old Ramsay is a host of famous TV shows, including popular shows like Kitchen Nightmares and Hell’s Kitchen.

He is also the author of a best-selling autobiography Humble Pie and owns over 20 restaurants spread across the UK, the US and Japan.