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All About The Mirch (Caution: Not For The Faint-Hearted)

The carnivore’s guide to fiery North-East Indian dishes

10 Apr, 2015 by Valerie Patton

Chili is to North-East India is what fish is to Bengalis. The deceptively mild-looking chili is absolutely essential to the North-Eastern palate. Be it a bowl of steamed organic vegetables or a clay pot of beef stew with kidney beans, or the everyday staple of meats which adorn the dinner table of the hill people: the chili is indispensable. With every bite, you can expect to get a gentle (or hard) kick of heat from the chili.

Rare is the North-Eastern Indian household that does not have a bamboo basket full of chilies hung in the corner of a modest bamboo kitchen which also adds a bit of colour to the decor. But hey! If you think chilies take away from the flavour of the ingredients, think again! One can think of endless dishes rife with chilies, which are yet so perfect in taste and texture.

Here is a list of some of the hottest dishes from the eight sister states of North-East India which you can relish in Delhi itself! So, feast on the food of  the mystic hills of the North-East brought to you on a platter.

Arunachal Pradesh

Pasa soup at Arunachal Bhavan, Chanakyapuri

The tastiest Arunachali dish offered in this canteen is the Pasa soup prepared with fresh river fish and an abundance of authentic ingredients like scented spiced leaves and chili (you can specify how much chili you want). All the components of this dish are very finely minced and then garnished with green indigenous leaves.

Assam

Duck meat curry at Jakoi, Assam Bhavan, Sardar Patel Marg

Assamese food is slightly different from most North-Eastern cuisines as it is more dependent on oil, black pepper and sesame seeds instead of the regular boil and steam. The duck curry is a delicious, wholesome curry cooked in ash gourd with a very generous quantity of black pepper that enhances the flavour of the meat.

Meghalaya

Jadoh at Rosang Café in Green Park Extension

Jadoh is a delectable concoction of red rice and pork cooked in perfect harmony using local ingredients flown all the way from the hills of Meghalaya. This dish is famed for the minimal usage of oil and the lingering aroma that stays in your mind and gives you hunger pangs long after you’ve relished it.

Manipur

Eromba at the Manipur stall in Dilli Haat

This is one of the simplest and yet one of the tastiest dishes of the Manipuris. The core ingredient of the dish is any seasonal vegetable which is then boiled in ngari (fermented fish), thinly sliced bamboo shoot and mashed and garnished with spring onions and chick pea powder. Without eromba, no meal is complete in a typical Manipuri home.

Mizoram

Bawngsa Kan at Rosang Café

Bawngsa Kan is a delightful preparation of dry meat (pork/beef), fried in seasonal vegetables and organic herbs from Mizoram. The array of textures and aromas that flirts with your palate as you savour it persists till the last bite of the dish.

Nagaland

Smoked pork curry cooked in Naga Raja Mircha at the Dzukou Tribal kitchen, Hauz Khas Market

Smoked pork is basically pork that has been hung above a Naga kitchen fire that is slowly dried and smoked over a period of more than a week. This process naturally permeates the meat in an intense smokey flavour. There is a general belief in Nagaland that food cooked in clay pots gives the most delicious and aromatic flavours. Smoked pork curry in raja mircha is slow cooked in clay pots using indigenous herbs like bamboo shoot, mejenga seeds (similar to Chinese coriander), few cloves of ginger and garlic, and of course, the ever majestic Naga Raja mircha. This dish goes perfectly with plain steamed rice.

Sikkim

Pork phing-sha at Tee-dee’s in Majnu ka Tilla

The Lepcha tribes, the Nepalese and the Bhutanese communities living in Sikkim has contributed to a diverse Sikkimese cuisine ranging from gyumas (fried beef sausages), to shapalays to phing-shas to dim sum. The phing-sha at Tee-Dee’s is undeniably the most authentic one in Delhi. It is akin to Thukpa except the noodle is replaced by lighter glass noodles and spicier chilli and more vegetables.

Tripura

Tokhan at the Rosang Café, Green Park Extension

Tokhan is a Tripura-style chicken curry cooked in very minimal spices, with an extra dollop of chili paste and well balanced with exotic tangy tomatoes from the North-East.

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