Haah aru Kumura Aanja (duck curry with gourd)
A few Assamese terminologies :
1. Haah : Duck
2. Kumura : a variety of gourd known as White Gourd Melon
3. Poka : ripe
4. Aru : and
5. Aanja : curry
6. Joha rice : a variety of tiny grained rice, gives out aroma when cooked.
7. Aaita : grand mother
8. Maa : mother
Indigenous Assamese cuisine is incomplete without this particular dish. In the upper region of the state of Assam, this dish is regarded very highly. In the olden times and even today, when a dear friend or a respected guest is invited over a meal, this delicacy takes the place of the main course. I remember as a young girl, whenever a reputed person or a respected guest is invited to the house, instead of the cook, either my Aaita, Maa or aunt would be doing the honours of cooking this particular dish with utmost care.
Although duck meat is found and eaten any time of the year, it tastes best during December-January. During this time of the season the ducks are full of fat. Harvesting season starts from the month of November and during this time ducks get to eat a lot of freshly harvested seeds of paddy. This is believed to be the reason behind the taste of duck meat during this time of the year.
After toiling all year round, when harvesting is over, its time to celebrate and merrymaking. In mid January Assam celebrates one of the three Bihus. In this Bihu, called the Maagh Bihu or the Bhogali Bihu, duck becomes the most preferred meat.
Cutting and cleaning :
Today we cut and clean duck in may ways to suit the recipe we plan to cook. But here I am narrating the traditional way.
Duck is kept in hot water for about 5 to 10 minutes.
This makes it easier to dress the duck. Pull the feathers off. Wash it thoroughly. Then lightly roast over a fire, turning all the time to brown it evenly. This gives out the unique aroma. Now it is ready to be cut into pieces. Although I add a little garam masala while cooking duck meat, my Aaita never did. She liked keeping the natural roasted flavour of the meat.
To make Haah aru Kumura Aanja, you need :
400gm duck meat
Kumura growing in my kitchen garden
It is very easy to grow Kumura in this part of the country, without much care. Notice the two different colours of kumura in the above picture. Green one is tender and can be eaten as a plain vegetable, the white is ripe which is generally used for the duck curry. Grow much bigger as they ripen. The ripe ones remain fresh, can be preserved up to a year.
A piece of ripe kumura
350 gm Kumura, cubed.
Marinate the meat with :
1. paste of 1 onion
2. paste of 6 pods garlic
3. paste of 1 tsp ginger
4. paste of jeera (cumin seed) 1 tsp
5. paste of dhania (coriander seed) 1 tsp
6. pepper powder 1/2 tsp
7. turmeric 1tsp
8. salt 1 tsp
9. raw mustard oil 2 tbsp
Mix well and keep aside for an hour.
Ingredients for cooking :
1. chopped onion 1
2. chopped green chilly to taste (optional)
3. garam masala powder (cardamom+cinnamon+clove) 1 tsp (optional)
4. mustard oil 1 tbsp
5. salt to taste
6. a few tezpaat (bay leaves)
6. a few fresh coriander leaves for garnishing.
Heat oil, put in tezpaat and onion, fry for a while and put in the marinated meat. Keep frying in low heat, stirring occasionally. Add kumura, fry again. The kumura will give out lot of water gradually while frying.
Take the pieces of kumura and leave aside. Cook the meat in pressure cooker to save time and energy.
Open cooker, add the kumura, little water and cook again till done.
Pour the curry out into a pan, add garam masala, green chilly and cook again for a few minutes. Check salt.
Gravy should be neither too watery nor thick. Garnish with chopped fresh coriander. Serve with a plate of steaming hot Joha rice.