10 Jul North Eastern Cuisine – A Diverse Indian Platter
North East Indian cuisine is a rich and diverse culinary tradition that surrounds the culinary delights of the seven sister states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura, along with the neighbouring state of Sikkim. Curled up in the easternmost part of India, this vibrant and uncharted landscape offers a fascinating array of flavours, secret ingredients, and untold cooking techniques. The cuisine is deeply rooted in the region’s geography, climate, and many indigenous cultures, resulting in a unique blend of traditional recipes and local ingredients. The ingredients used in this cuisine are inspired from the bountiful forests, rivers, and the fertile lands revealing the harmonious fusion of fresh herbs, aromatic spices, and seasonal produce. Rice, fish, meats, and fermented products form the foundation of most dishes, reflecting the region’s agrarian and fishing heritage. Let us delve deeper into the diverse delicacies of the North East Indian states, shedding light on their culinary traditions and few popular dishes.
Apong is a traditional rice beer that is popular in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. It is a fermented alcoholic beverage that holds cultural and social significance in these states. Apong is typically made from rice, although other grains like millet or maize can also be used. The process of making Apong involves soaking the rice grains and allowing them to sprout. The sprouted grains are then ground and mixed with water to create a mash. This mash is left to ferment for a specific period, usually a few days, in earthen pots or bamboo containers. The beer is often cloudy and may have a slightly sweet or sour taste, depending on the fermentation process and ingredients used. Apong is traditionally consumed on special occasions and festivals, and it holds cultural and ritualistic significance among the local communities. It is often served in bamboo mugs or bowls and enjoyed in a communal setting, fostering a sense of togetherness and celebration.
Masor Tenga is a traditional Assamese fish curry. It is a light and tangy dish that is made with fish, tomatoes, and a souring agent such as kokum or lemon juice. The dish is typically cooked in mustard oil and flavoured with mustard seeds, turmeric powder, and green chilies. Masor Tenga is a popular dish in Assam and is often served with rice or roti. The name “Masor Tenga” comes from the Assamese words “mas” (meaning “fish”) and “tenga” (meaning “sour”).
Gyapa Khazi is a traditional rice dish from the Monpa tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. It is a type of pulao, or rice cooked with spices, but it is distinguished by its use of fermented cheese and dried fish. The cheese gives the dish a unique flavour, while the dried fish adds a salty and umami taste. Gyapa Khazi is typically served with a side of vegetables or meat.
Lukter is a food delicacy made from dried beef that is native to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It is a popular dish among the tribal communities in the region, and it is often served during festivals or special occasions. Lukter is made by drying beef in the sun or over a fire. The dried beef is then pounded into a powder and mixed with spices, such as chili peppers, ginger, and garlic. The mixture is then shaped into small balls and cooked. Lukter is a delicious and flavourful dish that is sure to please. It has a strong, pungent flavour that is due to the spices used in the dish. Like the norm goes with Arunachal, this too is just a side dish meant to be eaten with the rice.
Pehak is a traditional fermented soybean chutney from the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and chili peppers. The fermentation process can take several days, and the resulting chutney is typically thick and has a sour and spicy taste. King chilly is the main ingredient in this dish, making it too hot and spicy for foreigners. Pehak is often served with rice or roti. It is also a common ingredient in other dishes, such as jhaal muri (a spicy puffed rice snack).
Dohneiiong is a traditional Khasi pork dish from Meghalaya, India. It is made with pork, black sesame seeds, and a variety of spices. The pork is typically cooked in a pot with the sesame seeds and spices, and the dish is then simmered until the pork is tender. Dohneiiong is a popular dish in Meghalaya, and it is often served during festivals or special occasions. The dish is said to have originated in the Jaintia Hills region of Meghalaya, and it is still a popular dish in the region today.
Hentak is a thick fermented paste in Manipuri cuisine made with sun-dried fish powder and the petioles of aroid plants (leaf stalks of plants in the Araceae family. They are typically long and slender, and they can be smooth or hairy. The petioles of some aroids are edible, and they are used in a variety of dishes). The small Indian flying barb fish are sun dried on bamboo trays and crushed to powder. The aroid petioles are cut into pieces and left in the sun for one day, then in equal parts with the fish powder the mixture is sealed in an earthen pot and fermented for around one week. Hentak is a standard ingredient in Manipuri households, where it is consumed as a condiment with boiled rice or curry. In Manipur, hentak is a homemade preparation that is not produced for commercial markets. It is custom to serve this to expecting mothers.
Jadoh is a traditional dish from the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya, India. It is a rice dish cooked with pork, chicken, or fish. The rice is typically cooked in pork fat, and the dish is flavoured with a variety of spices, including turmeric, ginger, garlic, and chili peppers. Jadoh is a popular dish in Meghalaya, and it is often served during festivals or special occasions. There are two types of Jadoh, with pork blood and without pork blood. Jadoh with pork blood is the more traditional version of the dish, and it is said to have a richer flavour. Jadoh without pork blood is a more modern version of the dish, and it is often preferred by people who do not like the taste of pork blood.
North East Indian cuisine is a culinary treasure that reflects the rich cultural diversity and natural abundance of the region. With its unique flavours, vibrant colours, and distinct cooking techniques, it offers a delightful gastronomic experience that is truly unparalleled. The cuisine of North East India not only tantalizes the taste buds but also serves as a testament to the deep-rooted traditions, history, and geographical influences that shape the region’s culinary identity. However, it is essential to acknowledge the challenges that North East Indian cuisine faces in terms of visibility and accessibility. Limited awareness outside the region, inadequate infrastructure, and the need for preserving traditional knowledge and agricultural practices are some of the hurdles that need to be addressed.
In conclusion, North East Indian cuisine stands as a symbol of the region’s vibrant heritage, biodiversity, and cultural harmony. It has the potential to become a significant player in the global culinary scene, representing the incredible diversity and richness of Indian cuisine. By appreciating, promoting, and preserving the culinary traditions of North East India, we can ensure that this unique cuisine continues to flourish, delighting taste buds and connecting people from different corners of the world.