~ Yashika Sehgal
All we know about Nagaland is that it is a north-eastern state and a place where tribals reside. The capital of Nagaland is Kohima. Most of us don’t know about what the people there eat, their cuisine and their way of living. Naga cuisine basically includes many different varieties of meat ranging from pork to fish, crab, beef. The food of Nagaland is known for its spice. The fresh bamboo shoot has a major role to play in the food in Nagaland.
INGREDIENTS USED IN THEIR FOOD
Different Nagaland tribes have their own distinct cooking culture. Often they also interchange their recipes but the one culture which is widely spread there includes eating the meat of all kinds. Since Nagaland is a hub of tribal people, hunting is still a prominent culture followed there. So, eating all kinds of meat is an indispensable part of their cuisine. The meat in their dishes is either smoked, dried or fermented. Delicious chutneys that they eat are called “tathus”. A typical Naga table includes a meat dish, a boiled vegetable dish, rice and chutney i.e tathus. They like to eat boiled edible organic leaves.
Apart from meat and bamboo shoots, the other widely used ingredients are lettuce, soya beans, mustard leaves, yam leaves. King Chilli, locally called Naga Mircha considered the spiciest chilli in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records, is widely used in the Naga cuisine. Since the Nagas like their food to be hot as well as spicy, they use king chilli in their dishes such as bhut jolokia, which is a very common dish in the north-eastern countries to add spice and flavour.
Other commonly used ingredients include ginger and garlic. The ginger used here is different from the normal ginger used in the rest of the parts of the country. It is very spicy and aromatic. Axone also called akhuni which is fermented soybean that is either smoked or fermented is a Naga speciality. Nagas prefer to eat boiled and not fried vegetables and meat in their food dishes. Fermentation which is a preservation technique is used in almost all parts of the state.
WIDELY COOKED DISHES
Nagaland is known for its traditional cuisine and culture. The food there has great varieties of pork recipes such as Kehle, which is Naga pork. It is one of the traditional recipes of the state made from king chillies and dried bamboo shoots. Vunenuo is an exotic special stew chicken dish. Zutho, a rice beer which is made up of fermenting rice is served with the food. Other drinks served there are Dzutse and Ruhi. Hinkejvu is a simple dish made with colocasia, shredded cabbage leaves, mustard leaves and some French beans.
Fish in bamboo is also eaten widely. Galho is a soupy dish made up of rice and vegetables or meat. Smoked pork in axone is a popular combination eaten there. Snail meat is also a part of Naga cuisine. Dishes such as Akini Chokibo are a snail delicacy. Delicacies made with chicken are Amerso and Anhoi. Apart from delicious non-vegetarian food dishes, the cuisine also includes vegetarian dishes such as Akibiye. The dish uses local and exotic vegetables. Akibiye is a simple dish made with colocasia and bamboo shoots which is mostly enjoyed by the Sema community in Nagaland. It has a thick gravy.
Dal is eaten along with meat curries there. Crab cakes of Nagaland are a very traditional and tasty dish. They are made up of crab meat combined with other ingredients such as milk, eggs, seasonings, onions and mayonnaise. Bell peppers are also used to make them. They are either grilled or baked. Pumpkin Oambal is a sweet-sour chutney eaten along with food. Awo Kutsu is a popular dish made from the head of a pig. Anishi Lon is a preparation of yam leaves and fermented bamboo shoots along with pork and fish. Konyak Nuk-Nge is a popular rice dish. Nap Nang is a sweet dish eaten by the people of Nagaland. It is made from sticky black rice and milk. Due to this rice used, it is generally purple in colour.
Generally, the cooking in Nagaland does not involve adding any oil to the food. The meat cooks in its own fat which results in the formation of oil in the dishes. Naga cuisine is known for its exotic meats but simple and flavourful ingredients. Fermentation is a commonly followed technique there. It is a process in which the food is first boiled and is then put out in the sun or near fire along with axone i.e fermented soybeans. It is used for the preservation of food, especially meats. Lettuce and Spanish leaves are also used to cook meat.
The cuisine of Nagaland has a lot of options and a lot to offer. The only problem is that it has been explored less. So, to all the foodies and travellers, next time before going to exotic foreign countries, try out the Naga cuisine. I am sure it will leave you spellbound.