This dish has always been my favourite since I was a child. The memories of collecting various leafy greens that have medicinal properties still invoke a sense of nostalgia, taking me to those days when my life was full of activities that are integral to existence in rural Assam. The images of the past have to a great extent shaped my passion for cooking, and this particular dish too has always stayed with me because of my love for the past. Apart from its unique taste, this dish has many health benefits as it is a collection of mostly medicinal plants which the Assamese call Bonxaak or wild leafy greens.
Although, many of the wild greens are not easily available nowadays, some are not that difficult to find and below is the list of Bonxaak that I collect for my kitchen on the occasion of Goru Bihu.
Tikoni Barua(Smilax perfoliata Lour), Lo Barua (Rumex maritimus L), Meseki (Sarcochlamys pulcherrima gaud), Nefafu (Clerondendrum colebrookianum walp), Podina (mint), Dhania (coriander), Lai xaak (vegetable mustard), Mula xaak ( radish), Lai jabori (Drymaria diandra Bl.), Duportenga ( Kalanchoe pinnata (Lam) Pers.), Sewali aag (tender shoot of night flowering jasmine), Titamora ( white jute), Biholoyoni (Amphineuron opulentum), Dhekia (fiddle head fern), Bhedailota (paederia foetida or skunk vine), Panounua (Boerhavia diffusa L) Madhuri aag (tender shoot of guava), Jatilau aag (tender shoot of bottle gourd), Rongalau aag (tender shoot of pumpkin), Maati kaduri (Sessile joyweed), Madhuxuleng (polygonum microcephalum), Noltenga (Indian chestnut vine), Jilmil xaak (White goosefoot), Durunbon (leucas aspera), Titabahok (Adhatoda vasica), Bor dimoru aag(tender shoot of Ficus racemosa L.), Khutora xaak (A. viridis L), Malbhog khutora (Portulaca oleracea L), Chengmora (Lasia Spinosa (L) Thw), Amora aag( tender shoot of Spondius pinnata (L.f.) Kurz), Mirika tenga aag ( tender shoot of Elaeagnus latifolia L), Kolmou (water spinach), Kosuthuri (colocasia), Mosondori (Heart leaf), Lofa xaak (Chinese mellow), Paleng xaak (spinach), Babori xaak (Crown daisy), Jetulipoka aag (tender shoot of Rubus ellipticus Smith), Kobi paat (leaves of cauliflower, cabbage and turnip), Mejenga ( Zanthoxylum oxyphyllum Edgew or prickly ash), Narasingha (curry leaves), Paani Kaduri (Alternanthera philoxeroides (Mar.) Griseb or alligator weed), Mahaneem (azadirachta indica A. Juss.), Medeluwa (Cassia occidentalis L), Keheraj (eclipta alba L or false daisy), Meteka (water hyacinth), Puroi aag ( tender shoot of Basella alba), Bortengesi (Oxalis corymbosa DC. Syn.O. debilis H.B.K), Bor manimuni (centella asiatica), Pirali paleng (ceylon spinach), Tulosi (basil), Dubori bon (Cynodon dactylon L. Pers.), Bengena aag (tender shoot of egg plant), Jolokia aag (tender shoot of chilly plant), Capsicumor aag (tender shoot of capsicum plant), Aam paat (mango leaves), Tezmui (Zanthoxylum nitidum (Roxb) DC), Pochotia (Vitex negundo L.), Mithamora (Corchorus olitorius), Betgaz (Rattan shoots), Tengamora (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.,), Bhat kerela aag (tender shoot of teasel gourd), Tita kerela aag (tender shoot of bitter gourd), Kumura aag (tender shoot of ash gourd), Sukloti (Patchouli), Suhonibon
(Acmella paniculata), Tita bhekuri aag (tender shoot of Indian nighshade), Laskosi ( solanum nigrum L), Hati bhekuri aag ( tender shoot of S. torvum Sw. or turkey berry), Kon bilahi aag (tender shoot of cherry tomato), Koful aag (tender shoot of Alpinia galanga (L.) Willd), Tora gojali (Alpinia allughas (Retz) Rose), Urohi aag (tender shoot of Indian bean), Kordoi tenga aag (tender shoot of star fruit), Xarioh xaak (mustard greens), Bokul paat (leaves of Mimusops elengi Roxb or Spanish cherry), Rupohi thekera aag(tender shoot of Garcinia lanceaefolia Roxb), Nemu kumolia paat (tender leaves of lemon), Nuni aag (tender shoot of mulberry), Nohoru paat (garlic leaves), Piyaz paat (onion leaves), Jika kumolia aag (tender shoot of ridge gourd), Amita paat (papaya leaves), Brahmi xaak (Bacopa monnieri), Boga morisa (amaranth), Chirota (Artemisia vulgaris), Halodhi paat (turmeric leaves), Maandhonia (long coriander), Methi xaak (fenugreek green), Horu tengesi (Oxalis corniculata L.), Horu manimuni (Hydrocotyle sibthorpioides Lam) Kopal futoni(Cardiospermum halicacabum L), Joba phulor aag (tender shoot of hibiscus), Tagarar aag (tender shoot of Gardenia angusta Merrill), Nayantara aag(tender shoot of Catharanthus roseus), Ronga morisa (red amaranth), Jetuka paat ( leaves of henna), Aparajita
aag(tender shoot of Clitoria ternatea L), Bhangor aag (tender shoot of Cannabis sativa L), Dhotura aag(tender shoot of Datura fastuosa), Helosi aag(tender shoot of Enhydra fluctuans Lour), Suka xaak (spinach dock), Kona simolu (Commelina benghalensis L.), Kata Khutora(spiny amaranth), Bon tulasi (Ocimum basilicum L.), Auni paan(P. thomsonii (DC) Hook. f.), Jaluk paat (black pepper leaves), Boga bahok(Justicia Adhatoda L), Bon jaluk (Hedyotis corymbosa L).
Though many of these leafy greens are available in the market, I prefer to collect them myself from my own kitchen garden and in our neighbourhood. Because, this exercise apart from conjuring the memories of the past when I roamed around the river bank, sandbars and the woods searching for these edible greens with my friends, also gives me an opportunity to reflect on the munificence of Nature. As per our belief, if we include this dish prepared with 101 leafy greens or Amroli poruwa tup (red ant eggs) on the day of Goru Bihu in our menu, we will not be afflicted by any diseases throughout the year.
Method of preparation of dish with 101 leafy greens –
Take the leafy greens that have a bitter taste in less quantity. Include more of those leafy greens that are your favourite or are delicious. The leafy greens that have a bitter taste include Sewali phul, Titamora, Titabahak, Mahaneem, Posotia, Betgaz, Titakerela, Titabhekuri, Sirota, Boga bahek, Brahmi, Hati bhekuri.
Take a few Konbilahi (cherry tomatoes), potato pieces, leftover assortment of vegetables like bottlegourd, brinjal, etc., after ritual washing of cattle. Chop the greens and fry everything together. Spice is not necessary. Add green chillies. A mouth-watering aroma, result of each leafy green being cooked together, will be wafting around your kitchen. This experience of smell, taste and colour will not be the same at other times even though we manage to find most of the leafy greens.