Food cooked in a bamboo hollow is a delicacy. Thinking dimsums? Then you definitely have not heard of the Araku Valley’s bongula chicken (bamboo chicken) and Assam’s sunga saul (sticky rice cooked in the hollow of a bamboo). Some food connoisseurs have even experimented with biryani in bamboo. Tender bamboo is an ideal —though occasional — vessel to cook food in, because of its moisture content and resistance to heat.
Traditional experts select young bamboo hollows by tapping on them to get a crystal-clear sound. The bamboos for cooking food are not too wide in circumference. After being selected, they are sliced along their circumference in required sizes (about 20 inches in length) with one joint intact. The joint is important to hold food in.
Before being used to cook, the bamboo is washed. Then it is filled with water and kept for a few hours, or overnight. This is done to allow the bamboo to soak extra moisture, which in turn gets released when the bamboo — stuffed with food — goes on a bed of embers.
Cooking meats, especially chicken and pork, inside bamboo is a routine affair in the Northeast. Sticky rice cooked in bamboo hollows (sunga saul) is a delicacy during Magh bihu. In Assam, newly harvested sticky (red or white) rice is preferred because of high gluten content.
Says Guwahati-based Assamese home chef Kasmira Borkotoky, “After it is washed, it is soaked for a few hours to activate the gluten in it. The rice is then transferred to the bamboo with a little water. The moisture is released once the bamboo is put on coal embers for a few hours. The rice gets cooked in that moisture.”
- 250 gms chicken
- 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- Salt to taste
- 7-8 split green chillies
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
- Juice of half a lemon
- Clean and wash chicken, marinate with all the above ingredients except lemon juice. Clean and wash tender bamboo hollow, then stuff marinated meat. Seal the mouth of the bamboo by stuffing it a ball made of banana leaves. Cook on a bed of amber for 20 minutes. Let it sit for an extra five-seven minutes without disturbing. Empty in a bowl, garnish with lemon juice and serve hot.