When we talk of Indian cuisine, we often fail to account for dishes from India’s North-east. The dishes originating from the North-east are deeply rooted in the traditions and culture of the seven states and are an important part of the rich, diverse, varied food that is Indian cuisine. There are some sweet dishes like Narikol or Khapse to indulge yourself or savoury dishes like Khar, Zan or Gyathuk to appease your taste buds – there is something for everyone here. Let us embark on a culinary journey of one such North-eastern cuisine – Meghalayan.
Jadoh is a very popular dish among the Khasi community of Meghalaya. It is especially appetising because of its rich and unique colour. Jadoh is basically red rice, cooked with generous amounts of pork meat. Sometimes, it is also cooked with chicken or fish. A mix of green chillies, onions, ginger, turmeric, black pepper and bay leaves is made, then pieces of pork are added and fried off, after which the red rice is added and cooked off. The addition of turmeric imparts the rice its rich yellow color and an aromatic flavour. For those willing to be more adventurous, Jadoh can also be cooked in pork blood. If you love pork, this is a dish not to be missed.
A wholesome meal that is healthy at the same time – Doh Khlieh is a delicious salad made out of minced pork, onions and chillies. If you are in the mood for some fusion food, some places dish up Doh-Khlieh with a Mexican touch by adding beans, tomatoes, carrots and lemons. It is also sometimes cooked as a curry of pig brains and eaten with bread – this version is not for the faint-hearted. One of the extreme dishes for those adventurous enough to try the wild side of Meghalayan cuisine.
3. Nakham Bitchi
A palate cleanser, Nakhmam Bitchi is a popular soup consumed before meals and served to guests. Nakham is a special kind of dry fish, which is sun-dried or fire-dried. The fish is then fried and boiled in water, to make a thick, rich soup. It is then flavored with lots of chillies and pepper to make it tasty and tangy, suitable for the Meghalayan weather. Fancy a cuppa?
Rice is a staple food of Meghalaya and it is consumed in many different forms and varieties, and also as an accompaniment to other curry dishes. Pumaloi is one such favorite rice dish of Meghalayan cuisine. Pumaloi essentially means powdered rice, which has been steamed. A unique pot called Khiew Ranei is used to cook the rice. It is cooked on medium heat with just the right amount of water, and balancing the amount of heat and water is a tough task indeed. Pumaloi rice is commonly served during public celebrations and festivals and is a unique part of Meghalaya culture.
One of the richest, yummiest and drool-worthy dishes of Meghalaya, Doh-neiiong is a pork curry dish that screams indulgence. Fried pork served with a rich, thick gravy flavoured generously with green chillies, pepper, red onions, local spices and black sesame. Black sesame is the hero of this dish that lends it its unique flavour. Lip-smacking goodness if you love pork, this is a dish not to be missed if you are in Meghalaya.
A humble everyday meal of the peasant community of Meghalaya, Tungrymbai is a wholesome dish flavoured by delicious ingredients and served with love. It is made from fermented soya beans, boiled and chopped pork, black sesame, ginger, onion and other spices. All these are fried and sauted together, and the delicious mixture is left simmering for some time to deepen the flavor and taste. Simplicity and lip-smacking flavor, isn’t this how everyday meals are supposed to be?
Very similar to the Pumaloi type of rice preparation, Pudoh is also a dish made from boiled, powdered rice with the difference being the addition of pork pieces. The dust rice is steamed along with small pieces of pork to infuse the flavor. A rich curry sauce is prepared to enhance the flavor further. A rich meal served during special occasions like weddings and carnival, and it is sure to appease your taste buds.
8. Minil Songa
A popular dish among the Garo tribe of Meghalaya, Minil Songa is a sticky rice preparation. Minil is a sticky rice which has a rich nutty flavour and delicate texture. It has a high amount of starch, making it sticky. To make Minil Songa, Minil rice is boiled in fresh bamboo and eaten as snacks. It helps in constipation and improves digestion.
Another dish made from powdered rice, this time sweet. Pukhlein is powdered rice, sweetened with jaggery. The jaggery and rice mixture is fried together in the pan, to form a deep, thick paste. The golden brown crispy rice is best served with a wide variety of meat items, and serves as a welcome respite to soothe the palate. Simple and delicious, you cannot go wrong with Pukhlein.
10. Sakin Gata
Sakin Gata is a sticky white rice cake, a sweet delicacy of Meghalayan cuisine. The sticky rice is soaked in water overnight and mixed with sugar. Alternate layers of the rice mixture and roasted sesame seeds are arranged in banana leaves, placed in a special cooking pot and steamed. They are served piping hot and relished as a simple, wholesome home-made delicacy.
A must-try party drink, Kyat (fermented rice beer) is simply not to be missed when in Meghalaya. It is made from fermented rice which has a unique flavor. It is boiled along with water, and garnished with local ingredients. Shillong has umpteen places that serve up Kyat. There is no bar or restaurant in Meghalaya that does not have Kyat, neither is there any household that will let you leave unless you have a glass of Kyat – a true symbol of Meghalayan hospitality!
Across various communities and cultures in Meghalaya, rice and pork form the staple diet of the people. The food of Meghalaya is unique and there are lots of cultural influences and traditional ingredients in the food that Meghalayan people dish out. If you are a pork lover or are looking for some extreme gastronomic adventures, take a trip to Meghalaya at the earliest. And we are sure; it will be a trip you will be talking about for years to come!
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