I believe food is definitely an integral part of travel. While travelling, I always make it a point to try out the local cuisines. When it comes to food, Nagaland is a place worth exploring. Situated in the northeastern part of India bordering Myanmar, this hilly state is the home to almost 16 tribes and sub-tribes. But in this case, too many cook do not spoil the broth. Rather it brings forth a variety in the cuisine of the state.
While the food from the tribes may overlap, but each of them have a unique dish specifically known for them. And this is the world of Naga cuisine. Here, not only the ingredients, but also their pairing makes a huge difference in the taste of the food. I had first tasted Naga cuisine in an unlike place in Darjeeling. And then I fell in love with the taste. Meat forms an important part of the Naga cuisine. Chicken, pork, fish, mollusks, fermented food items, vegetables, rice are some of the major contributors of the delectable Naga cuisine.
Rice is their staple diet which they pair with vegetables and meat. The food cooked is simple and tasty with very less oil. And of course, there is the fiery hot chutney made with fermented fish or bamboo shoots or fermented soya beans. The red hot Naga chilies are the ubiquitous ingredient in these dishes. Pork and beef are their favourite meats. Pork with bamboo shoot happens to be one of my favourite Naga dishes. Fermented food plays an important part in Naga cuisines – be it bamboo shoots, fishes or fermented soya beans. The fermentation gives it a distinct taste and odour.
The Naga cuisine is usually spicy. The food is also quite bland, in the sense that not many spices are used to cook the food. The blandness of the food is juxtaposed by adding the red hot ghost chili of Nagaland that is also known as the Raja Chili. The chili is extremely hot, and it is added to the food to give it an extra zing. I had once mistakenly eaten a whole Naga chilli and was left asking for water the rest of the day!