As I bite into some fattylicious, juicy and delicate pork ribs in one of the most favourite restaurants in Delhi, serving NE food, I dream of the land and its landscapes, and the culinary romance that it offers. I am a self-proclaimed meat lover and during the times of food politics, I can safely vouch for the swine flesh. This is one grub where I happily ignore the calorie counts.
While pigging out on some succulent pork ribs with Akhuni dip, I discourse the widely popular pork dishes from the NE with my food crony, who belongs to the land of seven sisters and a brother (Sikkim).
The dish that caught my attention to this divine flesh was Nagaland’s pork raja mircha. A recipe so simple, and yet so heavenly. It was beyond happiness to learn that the dish was oil-free and devoid of the usual Indian spices. It has heat of the hottest chilli “raja mircha” (I am a devout fan of this tongue-blazer) and flavour of the porcine lard. The other distinct tastesare that of the aromatics—ginger, garlic, bamboo shoot and the indigenous green leafy vegetable called “lai”.
Venturing a little deep is Tripura’s favourite, Wahan (Pork) Mosdeng, which my friend from Tripura introduced me to. The preparation is simple with almost minimal ingredients, such as onions, ginger, garlic and green chillies. However, what sets it apart is the roasted “green chillies” paste, added at the end to the boiled and cubed meat, along with salt. This goes well with “sticky” rice or with “Khundrupui”(a type of digestive leaf).
What about Mizos? I would love to try their pork dishes, exclaimed me. A travel enthusiast friend had been to Mizoram and tried one of the more known dishes Vawksa Rep, which is basically smoked pork stir fried with ginger-garlic paste, oyster mushrooms, and chillies, with just a dash of oil. This stir fry goes best with steamed rice or sticky rice purse. Don’t go by the simple preparation, as its intense taste will linger for a long time.
Moving onto Assam, I discussed various porky stories with my friend. How from being a “not-so-talked-about” meat, it has become very popular among the gennext.
There are many variations of cooking pork in Assam. The popular ones include Chilly Pork Curry with Bamboo Shoot, Pork with Mustard Spinach/Tendergreen, Chilly Dry Fried Pork and Pork with Black Sesame Seeds. “Gahori Laai-Xaak”is a concoction of pork fat, pork lean meat, mustard greens and a few simple spices cooked till they melt in your mouth. Potatoes can also be added to enhance the flavour. For me, this sounded perfect as it both healthy and delicious. It was also a very convincing way of telling people that I eat greens.
With all this culinary knowledge, I was more than eager to delve into the cuisines of the land of the rising sun, Arunachal Pradesh. With its beautiful landscpases, flora and fauna, and meadows, I am sure my gluttonous desire will not remain unsatiated. A quick research on my handheld resulted in some pop-ups, including Nou Moo Phan, Nou Moo Shen and Smoked Pork in Sengmora Xaak (another green leaf variety). The last in the list is pretty easy to decode—smoked pork cooked with xaak or greens quite similar to what we found in Assam. However, the first two were a little difficult to decipher, but the inquisitive me and my extremely cool research skills helped me learn that nou moo phan is pork blended with various locally grown herbs and nou moo shen is fried pork with appetising bamboo shoots.
Next up, to the land of vaishvanvites. I had doubts if pork is a prefered here, as there could be religious restrictions on serving meat in Manipur. To my surprise, I did find people cooking pork. Some of the popular pork dishes are Ok Thongba, which is cooked with pork loin, ginger, garlic, onion, bamboo shoots and tomatoes. As I read the recipes, I could picture myself eating the melted fat with bamboo shoot.
Meghalaya or “abode of clouds” is my last, but not the least, halt to unearth this culinary quest. The state has a very strong love for its meat. Not going too deep into the different eating styles of its three key tribes—Garo, Jaintia and Khasi—I focus on my interest area, pork. A few of the popular pork preparations are Jadoh, Jastem, Dohkhlieh and Pudoh. But what caught my attention was Jadoh, which is liked equally by all three tribes. My friends from NE swear by its “yum” factor.
This dish is cooked in a rather unique way—rice is soaked in pork blood and cooked along with ginger, onions, spices and “offals” (refers to the internal organs and entrails of the animal in question). Although it may sound premedieval to a lot of my friends reading this, I can assure you that you will want more when you taste it (I promise you that).
As I come to the end of this food trip, my latent desire to visit this land has become even stronger not just for the food, but for the people and its untouched landscapes. Hoping to tick-off atleast one state by end of this year. Amen!!!