While the Northeastern Indian state of Assam is best known for its tea, the food is equally notable. Like many dishes in the area, the one presented here relies on the banana tree—in this case, the flower. Traditionally, pigeon is used as a main ingredient, but we discovered chicken wings are a great substitute. It first appeared in our August/September 2014 special India issue with Jyoti Das’s article Eating in Tea Country.
- 2 tsp. cumin seeds
- 2 tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. black peppercorns
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 (2″) piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1 large banana flower
- 1⁄3 cup mustard oil
- 6 green cardamom pods
- 5 whole cloves
- 2 Indian or regular bay leaves
- 1 stick cinnamon, halved
- 1 small red onion, minced
- 1 1⁄2 lb. pigeon, cut into 2″ pieces, or chicken wings, halved at the joint, wing tips discarded
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 5 small green Thai chiles or 3 serranos, sliced
- 2 tbsp. ghee, melted
- Combine cumin and fennel seeds, peppercorns, garlic, and ginger in a spice grinder; purée into a paste and set aside. Fill a bowl with cold salted water. Peel and reserve the tough outer leaves of the banana flower until you reach the tender white bulb. Quarter and thinly slice the bulb; add to bowl with salted water. Within each of the reserved leaves, remove the pale, tender flowers found inside; discard any tough purple flowers and the leaves. Mince the flowers; add to bowl with salted water. Using hands, agitate banana flower in water until clean; drain and spread out on paper towels to dry.
- Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high. Cook cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon until fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Add onion; cook until golden, 4–6 minutes. Add reserved paste; cook until the oil separates, 2–3 minutes. Stir in pigeon, turmeric, sugar, salt, and ¾ cup water; boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook, covered, until pigeon is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Stir in reserved banana flower and the chiles; cook, covered, and stir occasionally, until banana flower is tender and pigeon is falling off the bone, 15–20 minutes more. Stir in ghee.