During my first visit to Assam in 2021, I can closely experience the food habits of the local people. Daily Assamese food has a lot of use of rice and lots of green vegetables. Different types of rice are used to make everything from pithe dishes and steamed jams to beer. This region is famous for several types of indigenous rice. These are not found anywhere else in the world. The fragrant rice of Joha, Bora, Red Bao, and Chokuwa are the most popular varieties, which have been cultivated here for decades. Let’s focus on Chokuwa and why she caught my attention. This rice has also received the Geographical Indication (GI). This special type of glutenous Assamese winter rice, known as “oil rice” in the local language, has been cultivated since dawn. It has been described as a ‘special gift of nature. You will understand the reason for this moniker when you scroll down.
Waxy rice refers to glutinous varieties classified as Bora and Chokuwa based on their amylose concentration. Fruits with medium high amylose are consumed as staple foods in this region. Instead, low amylose Chokuwa rice varieties are selected to prepare niche products such as komal chaul or soft rice. It is a whole grain, ready to eat that does not require cooking, and can be eaten after soaking the rice in cold and warm water. Low amylose rice is a special traditional type of ‘wet and eat’ rice grown exclusively in Assam and consumed by the mighty Ahom dynasty.
Cooked Chokuwa Rice, Image Source: Twitter
A special climate produces Chokuwa
Chokuwa rice varieties are classified as winter or sali rice (June – July to October – November season). Tinsukia, Dhemaji, Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Nagaon, Morigaon, and Sonitpur districts grow photo and long duration crops. The mountainous terrain and subtropical climate of warm, humid summers and cold, dry winters favors the cultivation of Chokuwa. Also, the acidic soil rich in phosphorus, potassium, organic matter, and nitrogen, and regular rainfall from June to September are some of the agro-ecological features of Assam that facilitate the development of Chokuwa rice.
Husked chokuwa paddy, Image Source: Wikimedia
It is surprising to know that the farmers primarily rely on the information they pass on to the generations by choosing a place of production, implementing methods, protecting against pests, and preparing various products of Chokuwa rice. Komal chaul is made from this rice after it is boiled, dried in the sun for a day, and removed from the skin.
Popularity and usage
The rural people of Assam eat a lot of Chokuwa rice, and various national dishes are created for social and religious ceremonies, festivals and holidays. It is widely used to prepare fast food. This parboiled rice is about 12 – 17 percent amylose, while other types contain about 20 – 27 percent. It is also used to make a tasty rice powder and paste, which is common among the locals.
Komal chaul jolpaan, Image Source: poris_kitchen@Instagram
Komal chaul is referred to as magic rice, as it does not need to be cooked. It has properties that allow one to soak and eat. It can be kept for a long time. It is usually served with sugar or jaggery, milk or curd, salt or pickles. Sometimes bananas and curud are combined to prepare a full and healthy breakfast. This type of rice, aptly named “magic rice,” has a huge local and international market and may be professionally advertised as a convenient food. Or it can also be used by Indian soldiers in high altitude or extreme climates with limited access to the mainland.