Nagaland situated at the extreme North-east of the states, is home to 16 major tribes and other sub-tribes. Though fiercely independent as tribes, the cuisine is quite similar and they have hardly any restrictions on the kind of meat they eat. One of their favourite meats is pork and dishes like Awo Kutsu, a speciality made from the head of the pig. Combinations of pork with crab, bamboo shoots, smoked pork with soya bean, crispy hot and sweet beef are popular.
Delicious chutneys, called “tathus”, are made using bamboo shoots and beans. Anishi Lon (a preparation of yam leaves and fermented bamboo shoots with pork and fish) is also famous. Rice dishes like Konyak Nuk-Nge and Galho, a kind of khichdi that can be made in different ways. Chicken seems to be the next favourite meat with dishes named Amerso and Anhoi.
Naga cuisine, of the Naga people, features meats and fish, which are often smoked, dried or fermented . The various Naga tribes have their own cooking varieties, but they often interchange recipes. A typical Naga table consists of a meat dish, a boiled vegetable dish or two, rice and a chutney (Tathu). Nagas tend to prefer boiled edible organic leaves. Some common dishes are “fermented bamboo shoot” (made from the tender shoot of the Bamboo tree) with fish and pork. axone(soyabean boiled, fermented and either smoked or sun dried) with smoked pork and beef. Smoked meat is produced by keeping the meat above the fire or hanging on the wall of the kitchen for 2 weeks or longer, which could last for the whole year ahead. Anishiis fermented yam leaves made into patties and smoked over the fire or sun dried . Naga food tends to be spicy(chillies).
There are different varieties of chillies in Nagaland. The ginger used in the Naga cuisine is spicy, aromatic and is different from the common ginger. The garlic and ginger leaves are also used in cooking with meat. Another popular dish is a soupy dish which is had with cold rice made mostly when one feels under the weather or a migraine, called by different name by the different naga tribes.
Some of the highlights of the food fest include Kelhe/ Naga Pork, one of the most loved & traditional recipes made with raja chillies and dried bamboo shoot, Vunenuo or Special stew chicken an exotic but simple and flavorful dish served in almost every occasion, Ga or Mix veg steam, one of the most preferred boiled vegetables served along with meat, Kekhrezhu (Mandarine Juice) among others. This has led to our latest initiative, Bringing Positive stories from the north-east. Through a series of events that will be held at the ants store cafe we hope to create a space for discourse on the northeast region, through book readings, film screenings, musical evenings, food festivals, etc.
Delicacies of the Nagas is one such event from the above project and hopefully the start of many more. While foodies so often look to far-off shores for the next big culinary thing, we may be missing a secret right under our noses the tiny, remote border state of Nagaland. Many think of Naga cuisine as consisting of little more than the bhut jolokia, the world’s hottest chilli pepper at 10,00,000 Scovile units, and a dish which is of dubious canine origin, but a well-planned visit to Kohima and the surrounding tribal areas begins to unravel the fascinating secrets of this under-studied cuisine.
Fermentation is present in a variety of Indian favourites from dosa to lassi. It works by converting carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using yeasts, bacteria or a combination thereof, under anaerobic conditions.
Fermentation usually implies that the action of micro-organisms is desirable and the process is used to produce alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer and cider. It is also employed in the leavening of bread, and for preservation techniques to create lactic acid in sour foods such as Sauerkraut, Dry Sausages, Kimchi and Yoghurt, or Vinegar (acetic acid) for use in pickling foods. The Naga tribes are said to have up to 150 different types of Fermented Products, Fermenting Bamboo Shoots Crabs, Fish, Lettuce, Yam Leaves, Mustard Leaves and most all other types of available foods.
The Naga food has not been influenced much by other cuisines. As hunting is a favorite occupation of people, meat is an indispensable part of the Naga cuisine. The Naga food is the same as it had been for ages, but the people have learnt to use spices in cooking.
Rice eaten with meat or vegetables is the everyday food of the Naga people. Dal is included along with the meat curries. Dog meat and the meat of wild animals are considered a delicacy. Paanch phoron tarkaari, misa mach poora, bamboo shoot fry, fish rice, and roasted duck are some of the foods made here.
Smoke dried pork curry with akhuni and snails is a traditional Naga food. Akhuni refers to fermented soya beans. Chicken chutney is made with shredded chicken, king chilli, garlic, and green onion. Rice beer is a traditional drink in this region. Zutho, dzutse, and ruhi are other types of drinks consumed here. Koat pitha is a sweet dish made with bananas, rice flour, and jaggery.
The Naga people believe that certain meat can cure diseases. The meat of a stone bird is believed to cure renal diseases. Dog meat is considered to cure pneumonia. Bee larvae, snails, and frogs are believed to heal the skin and bones when injured. A fluid full of earthworms is believed to act as an antidote to snake bite.
Certain meats are not eaten as they are considered unclean and can pass on its distinct characteristics to humans. A woman is not allowed to eat monkeys as it makes her extravagant, and the pregnant woman is not allowed to eat bear meat as it is considered a stupid animal. Large cats, such as leopards and tigers, are not eaten too due to superstition that man and tiger were brothers at the origin of creation.
The health benefits of Naga cuisine is not much studied, although the rice, vegetables, and meat can provide the essential carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins to an extent. However, the food is very spicy and hot with the inclusion of the king chilli in most of its dishes. This generates excess heat and can cause stomach problems, such as gastritis and acid reflux. Hot and spicy food can also cause sleeplessness, bad breath, and can damage taste buds
Naga viper pepper is a hot pepper of hybrid variety, created by Gerald Fowler of England. The pepper was a result of cross-breeding between the three hottest peppers of the world, the Naga Morich, Bhut Jolokia and the Trinidad Scorpion. The Chili Pepper Company holds the rights for this particular type of pepper which had been recognized as the hottest pepper in the world by the Guinness World Records in 2010. The fame was short-lived with the title going to the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T pepper in March 2011.
Variously known as akhuni, Dzacie aakhone or axone, it is perhaps the most commonly used fermented product of Nagaland. It is prepared year-around from soyabeans by people of all tribes, but most notably the Sema tribe of southern Nagaland. Soyabeans grow up to an elevation of 1,500 m and in rainy conditions, making it extremely suited to the Naga hills. It is also a protein-rich legume in an otherwise traditionally protein-sparse diet.
A crab cake is a traditional Nagaland dish composed of crab meat and various other ingredients, such as bread crumbs, milk, mayonnaise, eggs, yellow onions, and seasonings. Occasionally other ingredients such as red or green peppers or pink radishes are added, at which point the cake is then sauteed, baked, or grilled and then served.
This Pumpkin Oambal tastes incredible! Try this irresistible sweet sour chutney from the Naga cuisine with breads and let me know if you like it!