When people mention Indian food, what comes most commonly to mind is butter chicken, curry, paranthas and the general North Indian fare. But there’s so much more to the cuisine of India than just chicken tikka masala. The North East of India is a treasure trove of flavourful eats and treats that are sadly, almost criminally unpopular. The food of the Seven Sisters truly is fodder for the soul.
1. Smoked Pork With Bamboo Shoot
Straight from the belly of Nagaland, this dish is one of the many pork based variants the people love there, and with good reason. Bamboo shoot is is a common ingredient in many of their dishes, and only works to make this succulent dish all the more palatable. Goes best with rice and a nap afterwards.
2. Sticky Rice Cake
A common snack had during tea time and general bouts of the munchies. The rice is steamed inside banana leaves until it starts looking like a cake, after which it is duly devoured. This is enjoyed all over the North East.
This Manipuri chutney is made from mashed potatoes with bamboo shoot, dried fermented fish and a whole lot of chili. It’s a spicy accompaniment that’ll appear at pretty much every lunch and dinner in parts of the North East.
4. River Snails
Freshwater snails are enjoyed in parts of Assam and Nagaland. It can be prepared in a variety of ways, but cooking it in chicken broth with coriander dressing sounds like the tastiest way to go.
The Khasi people of Meghalaya love their rice and their meats. Jadoh is a combination of the 2 prepared in the most mouth-watering way possible. It’s highly recommended you eat this at a traditional local outlet.
6. Fried Silkworm
Silkworm might not sound very appetising, but don’t knock it till you try it. Spicy fried silkworm is actually a great little snack that goes great with beer, though the texture of it takes a little getting used to.
7. Pike Pila
A very common pickle from Arunachal Pradesh, this is mostly eaten by the Apatani Tribe, but it’s also consumed by the Nyishis, Adis and Galos. It’s made with bamboo shoot, pork fat and the ever-popular Bhoot jolokia. Oh god, yes.
The people of Tripura love their berma, which is basically dried fermented puthi fish which can be prepared in a variety of ways. It’s used in a number of dishes, and usually with very little oil.
9. Bamboo Steamed Fish
This is another dish commonly enjoyed in Nagaland, and you’ll find it in most menus in Kohima. It’s simple, homely and delicious.
10. Smoked meat with axone
Pronounced ‘ahuni’, this is a vital part of Naga cuisine. It’s made with soyabean – boiled, fermented and smoked, and while the smell isn’t exactly the most inviting, a single taste should be enough to bring you around.
11. Masor Tenga
This Assamese delicacy is one of my favourites on this list. It’s basically tangy fish curry, which is all you need to know. Throw it on some rice and feel your taste buds dance with joy.
12. Ooty Thongba
A Manipur dish, this is a kind of dal cooked using dried or fresh peas along with baking soda and chives. It’s hugely popular there, understandable, considering it’s not just delicious but super healthy too.
Possibly the most popular dish in Mizoram, bai is made with pork and steamed vegetables. It’s a simple but delicious dish that includes spinach, oyster mushrooms, local herbs and a lot of flavour.
This is made with strips of pork fat stewed with radishes and dried chillies. Sikkim is home to phagshapa, and damn, are they lucky to have it.
15. Fried Frog Legs
This is a common snack in various parts of the North East. It is exactly as it sounds, and it’s delectable. Best enjoyed during the rainy season.
Special Mention – Most of these dishes go well with some freshly prepared rice beer (apong) or grape wine. Delish!