Breathing Fire and Smoke - Exploring Naga Cuisine
1. Naga Cuisine
Most Naga people don’t visit restaurants. The concept is still foreign to many of them. Instead, they regularly visit their extended families and friends, even from other tribes and have a meal with them.Many tribes often get together in once in a while and have a community ‘picinc’.
2. Naga Culinary Practises
Barbequeing meat and then covered in a spicy and tantalising sauce is a very common practise. North Eastern food, in general, is shrouded in mystery. Traditionally, the tribes of Nagaland were mainly hunters and gatherers. They became agrarian much later. Prior to that, they would eat what they hunted, which essentially was bush meat. As resourceful as they were, they found something or the other to pair the meat with, thus creating some amazing dishes.
3. Spicy Flavours
The chilli and akhuni chutney smelled so spicy and hot that I was sure that it would burn my eyebrows off! Most Nagas prefer their food to be really spicy “Be careful with the chutney, have as little as possible if you don’t like spicy food,” warned Evelyn. “We add all kinds of peppers to our food, not just for taste, but because of the distinct flavours that each of them have,” she said.
4. Korean Influence
Considering that mandu is Korean, we asked our host, Evelyn Swu about the Korean influence on Naga food. “The preparation style may be the same, but the ingredients we use are indigenous to Nagaland. I sometimes add a little bit of akhuni to the mince. Also we generally roll our wrappers very thin as opposed to Koreans,” Evelyn explained.
5. Simple, but powerful flavours
What stood out was the simplicity and seemingly obvious flavours creating magic. The pork stew was very spicy but had a tinge of sourness. Because it was smoked for a couple of days, the smokiness had seeped deep into the meat, and yet it was tender and succulent. The beans and carrots were sweet and crunchy. The chutney, even though it smelled devilish, was refreshing, and accentuated the flavours perfectly.