Oh! Assam (Delhi, January 2023)

Okay, let’s get the Delhi restaurant reports started, and unlike with the reports from December’s southern California sojourn, let’s begin at the beginning: with our first meal out, at Oh! Assam in Humayunpur.

No prizes for guessing what kind of cuisine the restaurant serves. Even as the foods of the North Eastern states have become more visible in Delhi, there aren’t that many places to eat Assamese food. Back in 2014, I reported on a lunch at Jakoi, the restaurant in the Assam Bhavan in Chanakyapuri. That meal, I said, was more interesting than good. I was therefore curious to see what things would be like at an Assamese restaurant in Humayunpur, which is now the major centre of North Eastern food (and life) in Delhi. And so we arrived at the restaurant on our first full day in the city, determined to go out into the weak January sunlight in an attempt to synchronize our body clocks with the local time. Herewith, the details.

We ate in Humayunpur twice on our last family trip in 2020 and enjoyed both of those meals a lot. The first was at a Manipuri restaurant, The Categorical Eat Pham; and the second at a Naga restaurant, Hornbill. Assam is the second-largest of the North Eastern states—Arunachal Pradesh is a bit larger. It borders Bangladesh and West Bengal to the west, and in some ways its cuisine can be seen as demonstrating a transition from the flavours and ingredients of Bengal, eastern Bihar and Orissa to those of the states that share no border with Bengal or any of the other states to the west. At least that has been my experience. The cuisine features dal and fish and chicken curries that would be readily familiar to any Bengali; mashed vegetables in mustard oil that would similarly track for Bengalis, Biharis and Oriyas; and it also features more pungent fermented foods and fatty pork dishes, as well as fiendishly hot chutneys, that mark the cuisines of the other North Eastern states.

Oh! Assamese’s name seems to be a play on/reference to the popular Bengali chain, Oh! Calcutta (whose original Delhi location I’ve reviewed before). As far as I can make out, is the premier Assamese restaurant in Humayunpur. Which is not to say it is very large—unlike, say, any branch of Oh! Calcutta. It is located in one of the narrow lanes inside Humayunpur proper. On this occasion, however, Google Maps was able to lead us there very easily. We found a tiny but cute space. It has all of four tables, which together could seat 13 people. One wall is covered in attractive wall paper while the other seems to have had less attention paid to it.

We were there, however, for the food. In consultation with our pleasant server, we hit upon the following order as a good way to get a measure of their menu:

  1. Pork Dry Fry to start. Fatty pork, sauteed with onions. This had a bit of heat to it and was enjoyed tremendously by adults and children alike.
  2. Pork Thali. We doubled up on the pork as she said that they had very good pork just in that day. The thali came with mashed potatoes, a bit of dry fish chutney, a mixed veg dish, dal and the pork curry. Rice, cucumber and a big slice of gondhoraj lime rounded it out. All of it was very tasty and would be more than enough food for one very hungry adult.
  3. Chicken Curry. This was mostly for the boys and they liked it a lot, as did we.
  4. Fish Tenga. The above was already a lot of food but I really wanted to get a fish curry and this sour tenga was very nice indeed.
  5. Pura Bengena Pitika. This mash of charred eggplant with mustard oil etc. is in the broad bharta/bhorta continuum that stretches across North India and is a superior entry in that genre. Probably my favourite thing at the meal.
  6. And we rounded off our orders with two chutneys. A very pungent and very hot fermented bamboo chutney and an also very pungent and very hot dried fish chutney with chillies.

The missus had a coffee to start and the boys and I shared a large Thums Up. I am pleased to report that while the boys may not speak any Hindi or Bengali, they have organically developed a deep love of Thums Up.

For a look at the neighbourhood, the restaurant and the food, click on a picture below to launch the larger slideshow. Scroll down to see how much it all cost and what’s coming next on the restaurant report front.

The total with tip came to Rs. 2300 or just short of $30. It was a lot of food and we took leftovers home. Service was helpful, pleasant and present when needed.

By the way, I’d picked Oh! Assam for our first meal as we arrived in India at the start of the harvest festival season and I was hoping they might have a special menu for Magh Bihu, the Assamese harvest festival. We were unfortunately off by one day. When I asked if they were going to have anything special for Bihu, we were told there would be a special buffet the next day. We couldn’t quite work out how that would work in the tiny space. If you went or know, please write in below. Also please write in if you have recommendations for other Assamese places in Delhi to put on our list for our next visit, or for other places in Humayunpur.

Alright, the next restaurant report will take us back to southern California in December. I might actually write up our first restaurant meal (having already written up the third and the last). Maybe as early as tomorrow.



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