Top model and internationally acclaimed chef, Sarah Todd has got an Assamese nickname — bhatua. She loves rice so much that she has got this nick name. The Assamese term ‘bhatua’ means someone who eats rice all the time.
She acquired this moniker during her recent week-long trip to Assam to shoot for a show Awesome Assam that is to be aired on lifestyle channel FOX Life from April 20.
In an interview with www.mid-day.com, Sarah while narrating her recent visit to Assam said, “Assamese cuisine is based around rice, which I absolutely love. So, I would end up eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
The former ‘MasterChef Australia’ and fashion model travelled through different places in Assam and explored the ethnic delicacies and heritage sites of the state.
Back to Melbourne Sarah is busy to shoot for the show but the memory of Assam visit is still fresh in her mind and the hangover is on. “In Australia, the oldest food tradition involves the family sitting around the table for the Sunday roast. My visit to Assam brought back memories from home,” she told Anju Maskeri of www.mid-day.com.
According to Sarah Assam is a food lovers’ paradise. “If you are non-vegetarian, you are in for a real treat,” she says.
She also got the chance to relish the Aloo Puri and Peda of Bokakhat. “I was told to try their famous Aloo Puri and potato curry, which is served on a banana leaf along with chilli chutney. This was followed by the equally famous Peda, a semi-soft sweet made of khoya, sugar and traditional flavourings,” she says.
During her visit to Jorhat, Sarah learnt some lessons on tea plucking. The process involves extracting the bud along with one or two leaves. “That it takes a whole new level of dexterity is something I realised only after attempting it myself,” she jokes.
Narrating her visit to Assam Sarah said her mornings would start with Assam tea, famous for its malty flavour. According to her no tea ritual is complete without something to munch on, and that’s how she also discovered Til Pitha, which is “the perfect teatime snack”.
“The outer shell is flattened, filled with stuffing and lightly cooked on a tawa. These cigar-shaped treats left an explosion of flavour in my mouth,” Sarah Todd recalls.
In Majuli, Sarah was greeted with traditional rice beer Apong. “I was greeted with some customary home-brewed Apong, a traditional rice beer,” she says. Her host also prepared Tupla Bhat for her. Tupla Bhat is rice wrapped in plantain leaves and a few pork dishes. “The Mishings use a lot of locally available herbs in their cooking,” she observes. “The cooking techniques include slow-cooking on flame, dehydrating and smoking, all of which are cooking methods employed by chefs worldwide,” she adds.
She even had Assamese thali with 36 different dishes at a local joint in Kaziranga. One of her favourites was a curry made of taro greens, which are locally picked leaves, turned into a curry. “Eating a traditional meal without any cutlery and sitting on the floor of a Karbi tree house in the middle of a national park, is an experience that will be etched in my memory forever,” she smiles. Inspired by her interactions and the delicious cuisine, Todd has incorporated her version of Jika Maas (fish and ridge gourd) and Kothal Gahori (pork with jackfruit) on the menu of both Goa’s Antares and Lower Parel’s Wine Rack. “I felt there was no better way of paying tribute to a rich culture,” she concludes.