Planning a trip to North India? Then this knowledge is something that every tourist must possess when visiting the incredible Northeastern states of India!
Indian cuisine is world famous for its exotic spices, aromatic curries, hot spicy dishes and the most beloved foods like chicken tikka masala. Offering a variety of vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes, Indian cuisine is one of the most diverse cuisines in the world, which is not surprising as Indian a very diverse country in its own right. If you ask people what is the first thing that comes their mind when they think of India, it would indeed be Indian food. It differs from state to state, with each culture adding their own unique signature to their cooking styles. For example, curries of Punjab are totally different from the curries of Assam. That is the versatility of Indian food! It is as adaptable as its people. While most people are aware of and love Punjabi food with its oily tadkas and hearty tastes or the South Indian delicacies like Idli sambhar which are fulfilling and delicious, not many people are aware of the cuisine of the remote areas of North India. Isolated from the mainland India, there are many parts of this country where people have learned to make do with the resources offered to them by their land. Most of these regions are tribal areas where people have learned to live off the land and make the most of it. Over the years they have come up with some spectacular dishes which seem truly bizarre to us, but are part of their everyday lives. And the one constant in most of these dishes is chilies which are much hotter than the usually chili peppers found elsewhere. A good example of this would be the Raja mircha of Nagaland which are smoked to keep for a long period of time. We have for you, Special Northeastern Indian Delicacies You Never Knew Of! Let us explore some gastronomic delights enjoyed by people of Northeast India which not only reflect their culture but also gives us a whole new take on the individuality of Indian cuisine.
- 1. Smoked boar
In many parts of India there is still a practice of smoking or fermenting foodstuffs to preserve them. This is especially true in the North eastern states of India where at the heart of it, the food reflects the harsh life of peasants whose main source of food is hunting. And as is true for most of the hunting tribes, wastage is not an option. Everything is used. In every kitchen of Nagaland, you will find a fire over which will be hanging pieces of meat, usually pork as hunting of boar is more common in Nagaland. This means pieces of meat will be left to slowly dry out and smoke high above the flames. It is a long process that can take weeks at a time! It turns the meat crispy on the outside with an intense smoky taste, making it one of the most special northeastern . Naga people eat it as a snack or use it in making stews for meals.
- 2. Chilly black pudding
Sounds weird? Well don’t be surprised. This is a common snack in the home of Nagaland’s tribes. Cooked inside the hollow shaft of a bamboo stick, it is type of black pudding mixed with chilly and other native herbs. This is wrapped in bamboo leaves, inserted into the bamboo tube and left to cook directly over the fire. This gives the pudding a smoky flavor and mixed with chilly, which is an essential component of Nagaland cuisine; it is an authentic tribal experience. Enjoy it with a cup of tea!
- 3. Pork and Bamboo curry
Bamboo is easily available in the forests of Northeast India and thus it makes sense that it would be an essential component of the cuisine of Nagaland. To make this curry, various parts of the boar like kidneys, livers, intestines are used mixing them with roasted red chili peppers and one secret ingredient which make cuisine of Nagaland exceptional- Bamboo shoots. They are added to almost every dish and provide the spicy flavor as well as the distinctive aroma. No garam masala, no turmeric, no spices that we commonly associate with Indian dishes. Though that doesn’t make it any less delicious! Add a helping of rice and your meal is ready.
- 4. Fish curry of Assam – Tenga
Fish curry is common in many parts of the world. After all, fish is an easily available food source. But Tenga, which is a traditional Assamese fish curry, is a dish which is authentic to this part of the world and is prepared with local ingredients giving it a remarkable sour and tangy taste. The secret ingredient in this dish is elephant apple. What now?! You heard it right. Elephant apple is a bitter sour fruit native to Southeast Asia and used in making curries, jams, chutneys and dals. Add a bit of freshly grounded turmeric, finely chopped green chilies and then add fish marinated in salt and garlic. Voila! You have made Tenga, one of the most special northeastern Indian delicacies. It is a gastronomic delight and easily prepared.
- 5. Chicken with sesame seed.
Now you would be thinking just sprinkle some sesame seeds after the chicken is cooked and there you have your chicken with sesame seeds. But this is an Indian curry dish which while is easy to make, is not as obvious as it sounds. Not only is it tasty and fulfilling, it is very healthy as well. Best prepared with mustard oil, this recipe is great for the health conscious as very little oil is used. Sauté onion and garlic paste then add salt and green chilies (Of course, it is an Indian curry. Prepare your taste buds!). Add chicken, turmeric and fresh coriander paste that will give the curry its characteristic green taste. Let it cook a while and then the main and final ingredient is added – Black sesame seeds paste. Bet you didn’t see that coming! This black sesame seeds paste is only used in Northeast Indian curries and the taste of these curries is exquisite without adding the usual mixture of herbs used to prepare curries worldwide.
- 6. Chicken with Green Papaya and carrots.
The beauty of curries is that they are very flexible and established Indian dishes. One can prepare them with as many or as less ingredients as one wants. Chefs love it because it gives them an opportunity to experiment with different foods that don’t mix well but come together in the curry to give it a wonderful taste. Next time you feel like experimenting in the kitchen, try this interesting combination and see whether your taste buds like the typical Assamese sour tart flavor.
- 7. Eri Polu
Some people can’t even bear the thought of killing animals and eating their meat. But when it comes to survival there is almost nothing humans won’t eat. Eri polu, another one of the special northeastern Indian delicacies is one such example of resilience of human diet which is reflected in this exotic Assamese dish. Prepared from silk worm pupas, Eri silkworm is the primary ingredient that is used after it has spun its cocoon. While it will be an acquired taste to the people of mainland India, it is a delicacy of this region. It is served with ‘Khorisa’, a traditional condiment of Assam, which is another exotic dish prepared from fermented bamboo shoots.
These are just a few of the examples of foods that you might come cross when you visit this remote and not fully explored region of the world. The cuisine of a place reflects not only its culture but also its people as well. If you are a foodie and adventurous enough to try varieties of dishes which are part of Northeastern cuisine, then you will find North India to be one of the best places to visit in the world.