DEmystified: Naga Cuisine Is More Than Just Pork And Bamboo Shoot

By Pratyosh Gogoi

Demystifier: An ED Original where we take a complex topic but the content is written in such a way that it is knowledgeable and easy to comprehend at the same time.

The distinctive flavour and taste of different food items come from differences in either the method of cooking or the ingredients used. On the other hand, most regions get branded with their signature dishes.

Nagaland, with 11 districts and 17 different tribes, is a wonderful cornucopia of different cultures and so is its cuisine.  If pork and bamboo shoots and Raja Mircha (as the bhut jalokia or the ghost chilly is known in Nagaland) have caught your fancy, it is because these are popular ingredients also found in other cuisines; few chefs have dared to take the cuisine of the various tribes outside the state because some of the signature dishes would be an acquired taste for people outside Nagaland. Much like beer would be for people like me who love rum.

ED tries to look at certain dishes from Nagaland which might not have struck a chord with the mainland audience but definitely strike a punch.

 

  • Anishi and Axone: 

Probably owing to their lifestyle, fermenting the food has been a typical practice among the tribes. Axone or fermented soybean as well as dried and fermented fish are used as ingredients. It comes in powdered form and cake form. Although most importantly used to make chutney, every household’s favourite dishes with Axone are: Smoked pork in Axone, Dried river fish with Axone, Dried beef with Axone.

Axone and Powdered Anishi

 

Another tribal special that you must try is the anishi—prepared from edible Colocasia (arbi in hindi) leaf. Its stems and leaves also are used to make various stews and to add an extra flavour. Anishi is mostly used by the Ao tribe of Nagaland. It is best cooked with either fresh pork or smoked pork.

  • Naga Sticky Rice: 

It really excites us to explore and share our recipes because of the many possibilities – to cook something up using the same ingredients but differently. For example, we have Idli from the South, Sel Roti from the east and Masuyem (Sticky rice roti in Ao, Naga) from further north east (Nagaland) and all of these are made of one common ingredient “Rice”.

Naga sticky rice

Sticky rice, in steamed form served with spicy pork curry or chicken, are popular in Naga households. They also make roti using powdered rice to which sugar is also added.

The Konyak tribes make use of a special earthen pot referred as Nuk-nge tuk to cook rice on slow heat. Galho, a rice preparation with local herbs and salt is popular in Nagaland.

  • Naga Style Crab: 

The Nagas use the abundant river crabs available during the rainy season to prepare this dish. The speciality of this dish is that it doesn’t use the usual variant of the bamboo shoot- it uses its juice.

Naga-style crabs

As customary to all authentic Naga dishes, this too doesn’t need any masala and is prepared to perfection with garlic, onions, ginger and red chillies.

  • Boiled Vegetables: 

If you thought Naga cuisine is all about non-vegetarian food items, you are horribly wrong. Boiled vegetables are ‘THE’ dish of Nagaland. Whichever dish you might find yourself eating will always be accompanied by boiled vegetables like spinach, beans, carrots, Colocasia leaves etc. These are prepared without any spices and are flavoured with natural herbs and condiments- thus not adulterating the vegetables and keeping the natural taste and goodness intact.

Boiled vegetables

The various tribes of Nagaland have been closely dependent on nature through the ages. Living off the land has never been a problem for them. This reflects in their style of cooking and their dishes- where little or no spices are used and natural ingredients are preferred.

 

If you’re in Delhi, here’s where you can catch some delish Naga food: 

  • Nagaland Kitchen 

(S-2, Uphaar Cinema Complex, Green Park Extension Market, Green Park, New Delhi)

The dish to die for is Pork Ribs with Raja Mircha chutney. Also, try their varied collection of boiled vegetables.

  • Bamboo Hut 

(1598 Outram Lines, Kingsway Camp, New Delhi)

They serve a sizeably heavy thaali for the price charged; and have a range of chutneys to choose from. Also, their chicken with bamboo is absolutely delicious.

  • Hornbill  

(104/A, Basement Backside NCC Gate, Safdarjung, New Delhi)

Try their Fish with Bamboo Shoot or Raja Mircha or the Hornbill Thali, to get a taste of authentic Naga food all at once.

  • Dzukou Tribal Kitchen 

(E-22, 3rd Floor, Main Market, Hauz Khas, New Delhi)

We suggest you go for their Smoked Pork with Black Sesame Seeds, Naga Rajma Curry with fresh Bamboo Shoot and Rosep Aon– mixed vegetables cooked in Naga herbs.

 

Bon appetite, people.

 

 


Image Credits: Google Images

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