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WEILOI VILLAGE FOOD TOUR

Our curiosity to be a little more familiar with the Khasi cuisine led us to a quaint village called Weiloi, that was 48 km away from the capital city of Shillong, on the Mawsynram Shillong highway. We arrived here with our gracious host Linty who coordinated this insightful culinary visit. We were visiting Linty’s friend Joyfulmary and her lovely family in the village to oversee the preparation of a traditional Khasi lunch and to savour the same. The prospect of having a rustic meal made with local ingredients was so fascinating that we started early from Shillong and after an hour and a half drive we were at our destination.

The snacks basket that was served to us along with tea at a road side eatery in Trysad.

 

En route to Weiloi, we stopped at a small village named Trysad for some quick refreshments. There we checked into a tiny roadside eatery, which was full of people having breakfast or just tea. While most of them were sitting on the long benches waiting for their order, few of them were sitting on very low stools and having their food. A couple of agile ladies, dressed in the traditional Khasi attire called Jainkyrshah, were attending to the customers. A pleasantly starchy aroma wafted through the space. We ordered some tea for two reasons. First, we were earnestly craving for it and secondly we were intrigued by the sight of the snacks basket that was being doled out to the customers having this beverage. So on ordering a tea you get a neatly arranged basket full of a delightful assortment of rice cakes and biscuits. After you pick the ones that you like to have, they take it away, to the other customers. 

In it we spotted the Pumaloi, Pukhlein, Pusla, sweet bun etc that we had already tried at Iewduh. On Linty’s recommendation, we tried the Puslaan elongated, leaf-wrapped steamed rice cake that was made from rice flour and jaggery batter. Other than its mild sweetness, there wasn’t anything distinctive about it. In spite of the absence of a robust taste, these rice-based snacks are hugely popular across Meghalaya because of its wholesomeness that sustains the industrious lifestyle of the Khasi people.

Soon we were back on road and after half an hour drive we reached our destination Weiloi. Here we were greeted by the beautiful rustic surrounding and our genial hosts. Since outdoor cooking is common in villages, we spotted the place in the front yard of the house that was  spruced up for the cooking session. There was a portable wood fire oven and the necessary utensils. 

Putharo with Dohjem

 

Before starting with the lunch preparation, we were offered some Putharo(steamed red rice pancakes) with Dohjem(dish made of pork innards). The humble Dohjem was truly delicious. Moreover, the light Putharos impressively complemented its delicious meaty flavours. We also tasted another interesting combination of Pu Syep(rice cake) with sweet milky tea.

 

Wood fire cooking

Finally, we were out in the front yard to cook two traditional Khasi delicacies named the Jadoh and country chicken curry. Prup, our host, was was ready with all the ingredients. As per the local practice, we would be cooking them on the wood fire. The Jadoh is primarily prepared with pork meat but the chicken variant is also popular. We were making the chicken Jadoh with country chicken meat. During the conversation with Linty, we came to know about a very interesting fact about the chicken meat that is used in the dishes. Generally people use the chicken with its skin for it gives an extra flavour to the meat preparation. They wash the flesh thoroughly and remove all the feathers and then lightly roast it over the fire to soften it. That is how the chicken meat gets ready for cooking.

For the Jadoh Prup, first sliced up some onions and then added them to mustard oil. Then she chopped the chicken into small pieces and kept it aside. When the onions became translucent, she added the chicken to it and after five more minutes she further added the black pepper powder, salt and black sesame seed powder. On a different wood fire oven, she put the red rice to boil. After ten minutes of cooking, she transferred the chicken mixture to the boiling rice and let it simmer on a very low flame till the stock dried up. 

The country chicken was also an easy preparation. Chicken pieces were cooked in a simple masala comprising of onions, ginger garlic paste,  chillies and salt. After ten minutes of stirring the dry mixture, water was added to it and it was allowed to simmer for some more time till the stock reduced and the meat was tender. In the middle of cooking the intermittent drizzle gave way to a downpour and we had to rush the whole set up to the verandah. It wasn’t much of a surprise as the village Weiloi was nearly 14 km away from the wettest place on the Earth i.e Mawsynram. As we waited for the country chicken to be done, we met the old lady at the house who was wearing the JainTap Moh-a traditional Khasi Shawl-to protect herself from the cold breeze. Together we all had the kwai.

 

The lunch spread

 

After the cooking was over, without wasting any time we sat down for lunch. Along with the Jado and chicken curry there were few other dishes that the family had already prepared in advance. So our platter comprised of chicken Jadoh, country chicken curry, Phan kleh or potato and herb mash, stir-fried pork, tungtap, mint chutney, pickled sophie and some local herbs. 

 

Jadoh and Country Chicken curry

The star dish Jadoh had a moist texture and was very flavourful. The country chicken curry tasted great as well. We also liked the Phan Kleh or the potato mashed with the local herb Jalangchir. The pickled Sophie needs special mention because it was quite delicious. Along with the regular cooked dishes the locals do eat few herbs that prevents any kind of stomach disorder that might arise due to the consumption of meat. We realised that the use of local ingredients and the traditional style of cooking lifted this humble and minimalist meal to a gratifying experience. After this soul-satisfying meal we had the customary kwai. And soon it was time to bid adieu to the lovely family. Their hospitality was so warm and endearing that it felt like home. Heartfelt thanks to Linty, Sayan, JoyfulMary and her family members for such a heartwarming experience.

 

 

 

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SHILLONG’S IEWDUH MARKET FOOD TOUR

Market visits are always fun and exciting, so after the Police Bazaar food tour, we were keen to check out the food scenario at Iewduh market in Shillong. Pronounced as “Yoh Doh”, it is one of the oldest and largest wholesale markets in the city where one can find fresh stocks of vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, spices and other food items. Majority of the fresh stocks are supplied by the local farmers. The place also has a lot of handicraft items from local artisans like bamboo and wicker baskets, and many other non-food items as well. This sprawling marketplace is full of narrow alleys that leads you up and down the place. All these alleys appears the same to any unfamiliar eyes. 

 

We reached there early in the morning with our host Lynti, just when the market was opened for business. Soon the shops and stalls appeared to be spilling over the congested alleys full of vendors, porters and customers. In no time the calmness all around transformed into a clamour. We were thrilled to discover what the locals ate on a daily basis so our main focus was on the food items were being sold at the market.

 

We started our food tour by purchasing various kinds of rice cakes from a roadside vendor. Home made rice cakes are popular khasi snacks that are mostly consumed for breakfast along with tea. They are wholesome and convenient source of energy for the industrious populace. The ones that we bought included the Pusaw, Pumaloi and the Pukhlein. Pusaw or plain steamed sticky rice cake was bland in taste and is supposed to be eaten with tea or milk. The Pumaloi or steamed red rice cake was bland as well. But both tasted good with sweetened tea. The Pukhlein which was a deep fried rice flour and jaggery based snacks, was quite delicious. It had a sharp flavour of the mustard oil in which it was fried. 

Another popular stuff that local people preferred for breakfast was flattened rice soaked in tea. We have eaten it with many things like milk or curd but never with tea. It satiates the craving for tea and fills up your tummy. 

We also visited one of the oldest Jadoh shops in the market. It was bustling with people enjoying Jadoh and other regular Khasi dish. We went there to witness and understand the eating scenario here in Iewduh market. 

After ambling up and down the narrow lanes lined with shops and stalls in the different sections of the market we finally arrived at the centre of Iewduh that houses the largest vegetable market of the region. The sight was no less than a marvel. Wherever your eyes went, you can see different kinds of vegetables that came from local farms. They were fresh and colourful and unique. 

One of the most notable things about this market was that most of the traders here were women. Attired in their simple traditional outfits, they can be seen chatting, laughing, chewing kwai and selling their fares. It was indeed a fun place that gave you a sneak peak into the lifestyle and culture of the Khasi population. 

In the evening the place was more alive with people. Moving through the market becomes difficult due to darkness and intermittent rains. Linty took us to a place that sold a dish called Big Momo, a popular evening time snacks. As goes the name, these momos were big-sized steamed momos with same filling. the only difference was there in the texture which was more fluffy and bready that the regular ones. They were truly amazing. With it we came to the end of our Iewduh marketplace tour. It was one exciting exploration that made us more familiar with the Khasi culture.

 

 

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SHILLONG FOOD TOUR

 

This special blog marks the beginning of our food explorations across the North-Eastern states of India, the region that is pleasantly rich and diverse in topography, demography and culture.

Our Northeastern food trail began from Meghalaya’s capital Shillong, whose breathtaking natural beauty has catapulted it into a popular tourist destination for all the nature-loving travelers. Due to the picturesque beauty and pleasant climate, this city was once referred to as the ‘Scotland of the East’.

In this northeast culinary expedition of ours, we have until now covered a minuscule of the pristine expanse but we soon intend to discover more of its breathtaking beauty.

Shillong is a place that is mostly inhabited by the Khasi tribe, hence the local food scene here is primarily dominated by the Khasi tribe. So join us on this exciting food tour across Shillong. In this venture we were joined by two zealous food explorers Lynty and Sayan walked us around and assisted us in this culinary discovery.

In this brief account we have covered our street food trail in Police bazaar and also the traditional Khasi meal that we had at Linty’s place. Our journey began with a lovely drive from Guwahati to Shillong through the beautiful landscape and pleasant weather.

On reaching Shillong we directly went ahead to join our hosts Lynty and Sayan who were waiting for us at Police Bazaar. It is a prominent shopping, hangout and food hub in the capital city. The place was crowded yet very lively. We straightaway walked up to the food area that was lined with numerous stalls selling local and popular street food fares.

 

Jadoh

 

Here Lynti introduced us to the most ubiquitous Khasi delicacy called Jado. Few minutes into the walk and we soon realised how much did the locals loved the dish. It is rice cooked along with meat and a few other ingredients. Unlike the usual case here they have cooked the rice separately without meat and while serving it they topped it with a chicken or pork curry. It was simple yet super delicious.

 

Barbecued chicken

Next we tried some freshly barbecued chicken which is another local favourite. The neatly defined flavours of pure succulent meat makes it an irresistible snack.

Pakoda vendor

Further, while ambling down the lanes of the marketplace, we stopped by a Pakoda seller to try some hot Pakodas. This gentleman from Bihar has been successfully selling these humble fritters for the past 40 plus years. They were quite toothsome.

After that brief street food trail that was interspersed with crazy downpours, we reached Lynti’s house to savour some traditional Khasi dishes for dinner. We were welcomed by her warm and genial family. Then followed an enlightening conversation in the tranquil setting.
With the clock announcing dinnertime, we couldn’t contain our excitement to try the meal. The spread included Jastem, Shriew, Doh sniang Trykhong, Dohneiiong, Tungtap, tamarind pickle, etc. No wonder the meal cooked with so much affection and care was distinctly scrumptious. We particularly loved the Doh sniang trykhong which was a simple dish made with smoked pork and pumpkin. From the very first morsel we could relate to the fact the Kashi cuisine is minimalistic yet delectable. The best part was of the delicacies were the clean flavours of the major components i.e. the meat or vegetables.

The day’s culinary escapade gave us some insights about the Khasi cuisine. It is minimalistic in nature with very little use of spices or fats. Rice, pork and chicken are their staple food. They also consume a lot of local vegetables like yam, pumpkin etc. The dishes are mostly prepared with onions, ginger, garlic, chilies, sesame seed paste, turmeric and mustard oil. Smoking and fermentation are two chief culinary practices of the khasi cuisine. 

Post-meal it was time to have Kwai. It refers to areca nuts. The tradition of eating areca nuts with or without betel leaves, was an integral part of the Kashi tradition so in Shillong you will find every other person chewing kwai. People offer it as a mark of friendship, hospitality and honour so refusing the kwai is considered to be an ill etiquette.

Soon it was time to convey our gratitude and bid goodbye to our generous hosts for the yummy food, warm hospitality, and useful insights. The beginning being great we were thrilled for the rest of the adventure in this marvelous region.

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RATLAM FOOD TOUR

Historically known as Ratnapiri which translates to the City Of Gems’, Ratlam is a city situated in the northwestern part of the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh. This commercial city is synonymous with three S i.e Sev, Sari and Sona(gold). Moreover, it is also a significant railway junction of the Indian Railway’s western division. The place also boasts of some amazing snacks and street foods which the locals love to binge on. So we have arrived at this small yet commercially significant city of Madhya Pradesh to explore its street food scene that is a matter of joy and pride for the locals. In this gastronomic journey we are joined our amazing hosts Ratlam Wale and Chirag Rai who would be taking us to the most frequented eateries. Due to its proximity with the neighbouring states of Rajasthan and Gujarat, Ratlam’s street food is deeply influenced by the culinary traditions of these regions. 

We started our food exploration with Central India’s traditional breakfast dish Poha from a popular Poha joint Saklecha Nashta point. It was fluffy and light on spices. But the toppings of sev, fresh coriander, pomegranate seeds and chopped onions made it a tasty affair. The wholesomeness of this humble dish makes it a popular breakfast choice.

With the rains making a sudden appearance, we rushed to the nearby tea stall named Bajrangi Tea stall to satiate our tea cravings. Tea is the favourite beverage across Madhya Pradesh and the enthusiastic crowd at this stall and elsewhere too, was a tell tale sign of the fact that just like Bhopal and most other cities of central India, Ratlam too is a tea loving city. The tea here was indeed very energising and addictive but their saffron coffee was just decent enough. They stand out in their service as they use undiluted milk and good quality tea leaves for their brew.

Our next destination was Gordhanlal Sev Wala, a fifty year old establishment that specialises in the famous Ratlami sev. These gram flour based, tiny deep fried spicy snacks were truly appetising and fun. Here in Ratlam it is eaten anytime and with most of the dishes. According to the owner, the climate and the water of Ratlam gives the sev its distinct character. The use of the warming spices like cloves, black pepper, asafoetida etc., makes it a bit spicier for our palette.  

Next was the turn of a wholesome Dal Bati and Bafla Thali from the popular Vyas Dal Bati. It comprised of crushed Bati and Bafla along with sweet and sour dal, papad and chutney. The platter was delicious and value for money. We spotted many daily workers having it for breakfast because this heavy protein and carbohydrate rich meal easily provides them with a continuous supply of energy for a long period. 

 

 

After that we tasted the simple and light Sabudana khichdi from Sabudana Bhandar. Like the Poha this too is a go to breakfast dish across Central India. Its light, sweet and sour taste that was quite satisfying. In the morning time locals prefer these healthy snacks.

From there we reached Karu Mama Samosa shop. Their bestsellers includes the corn samosa, raw banana samosa and mirchi vadas. All of them were distinctly flavoursome. We were quite surprised with the taste of the raw banana samosas that we had for the first time. It had a sweet and sour taste. This snacks was created out of the necessity to cater to the Jain population who refrain from consuming the vegetables that grows under the soil. The place is a hot favorite so don’t miss it if you are visiting Ratlam.

 

While ambling down the street we came to a very interesting shop with the name Madhya Bharat Bar. On inquiring we realised that it used to be a thriving place long back and its origin dates back to post Independence era. The bar was no more functional. Here we tasted their fruit beer which okay but not much impressive.

Our next stop was Satish chaat wala whose chaats are a craze among the locals. Here we tried their three popular dishes- one was the aloo tikki chaat, the other was raw banana chaat and finally aloo tikki biscuit. Everything was delectable. No wonder people keep coming back to this place again again not only due to the lip smacking fares and also for the passionate young chap behind the counter who serves them with such joy and zeal. It’s another must try place in Ratlam.

From there we went to their relative’s pani puri shop for some delightful panipuris. The owner was such a generous host that he made us taste all the different flavours of pani puris available in his shop with such pride and honour. Though each of them were simply brilliant, but it were the Ratlami sev flavour, the mixed flavour and the Gatagat flavour that just blew our mind. Gatagat is a zesty, sweet and sour, playful tiny edible balls that we used to have during our childhood days. We also had the palak chaat here which was super crisp and moreish. We highly recommend this place to all the Pani puri lovers.

After binge eating those unforgettable pani puris we went to taste another famous hot beverage, the kesariya doodh that the city swears by. The thick and luscious milk is was quite pleasing. The locals love to have it after dinner. 

We ended our food tour in Ratlam with a tasty paan from Govind paan shop. The day super gratifying and we could cover most of the popular eateries. We are extremely grateful to Chirag and Ratlam Wale for taking us around and helping us in our exploration. We truly appreciate their passion towards their hometown. 

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NOIDA(BRAHMAPUTRA MARKET) FOOD TOUR

The Brahmaputra Market is one of the oldest markets in Noida. Situated in sector 29, it is a popular shopping and food destination for the locals. After sundown this shopping hub transforms into a gastronomic paradise pervaded with food items varying from Kathi rolls and Momos to Chaats and Chicken Biryani. Name any popular pan Indian street food, you would find a stall here to cater to your cravings. So in blog we bring you our street food explorations from this bustling marketplace. In our sojourn to sample some of the lip-smacking street food fare, we were joined by our gracious host Sanyukta Nath who is a gourmet and a local. The unfortunate part of this tour was a sudden change of weather due to which we were bound to curtail the scope of our plans.

 

PAPER DOSA FROM LAKSHMI COFFEE HOUSE

 

Our first stop was an old South Indian joint named Lakshmi Coffee House. It is a quaint restaurant serving popular and authentic South Indian fare. We ordered the Paper Dosa along with filter coffee for two specific reasons. One, we intended to have a light meal so that we have enough room for other delicacies that were in the offing. Secondly, we believe that the seemingly simplest dish offered by any eatery can be a test of one’s amazing culinary skills prowess. True to its name, the dosa was paper thin, pleasantly crisp and hearty and so were the coconut chutney and sambar that accompanied it.

PAPDI CHAAT FROM EVERGREEN

 

The second stop was the popular Evergreen Chaat shop. On arriving there we were greeted by their huge, neatly done Chaat assembling area. The sight of the ingredients on the other side of the transparent facade makes you salivate. We tried one of their bestselling Chaats i.e the Papdi Chaat. This zesty thing qualified all the criteria(components, tastes and textures) of a good Chaat. However it was this unique touch of a topping of spiced peanuts that gave it an extra edge.

 

DAHI PURI FROM BOMBAY BHEL PURI STALL.

 

Then we headed to Bombay Bhel Puri for that tempting plate of Dahi Puri that Sankyukta had been eulogizing about all through. The super pretty crisp hollow puris loaded with a delightful sweet, savoury and tangy mixture reminded us of the adage that one first eats with his eyes and then with his mouth. Just as they crack apart in your mouth, you know how sensational they are. If you are a chaat lover, then definitely give this place a try. 

 

VEG KEBABS FROM LUCKNOWI ZAIKA

 

While moving towards our next destination, we chanced upon this stall named Lucknowi Zaika. So it was the sight and aroma of the flat kebabs stacked one upon another on the huge griddle, that attracted us to this place. To our wonder, here we had one of the most delicious Veg Kebab, that was quite similar to a well done Galauti kebab, all in taste, texture and flavour. This humble delicacy made with lentils, soya nuggets mince and raw banana was indeed a revelation for us both. 

 

In no time the weather turned bad and it began to rain. The market place was just being set up. But neither did it dampen the spirit of the vendors nor ours. Thankfully in sometime the rain stopped and the evening food market began to emerge hurriedly. We were glad that the tour didn’t get aborted. As the cool and pleasant weather whetted our appetite and we began to lookout for our next destination.

CHICKEN KORMA

So as the activity at the food zone resumed, we were tempted to try a plate of piping hot Chicken Biryani from one of the vendors. The biryani was served with a spoonful of Chicken korma and some Chaat masala. It had a fun taste with the chicken being moist and tender.

 

Finally we arrived at Al Kaif Shawarma stall to have the Chicken Shawarma Roll as recommended by our host Sanyukta. It was a no fuss Lebanese style wrap that was tightly stuffed with a juicy, tender and optimally spicy, finely chopped grilled chicken. We enjoyed this soft and filling combo. 

Next was the turn of an Afghani style Chicken Shawarma roll at a cart with the same name. The wrap comprising of a soft, thick and fluffy bread stuffed with charcoal grilled shredded chicken, vegetable juliennes, seasonings and dollops of mayonnaise was simply irresistible. We highly recommend this place to all Shawarma addicts.

Our penultimate stop was Amar Momos. Their Chicken Tandoori Momos were smoky and spicy, buttery, creamy and very flavoursome. You can sense the Tandoori and the momo flavour coming together quite nicely. The chutneys were brilliant as well. The filling was quite moist and the outer case was so aptly thin that the overall deliciousness was not marred by any doughy taste.

It was time to wrap up the food tour and so we decided to call it off with a paan. For this we went to try a meetha paan from the very popular Nitesh Paan shop in the market. 

Inspite of the weather playing spoilsport, this culinary trail across the Brahmaputra market in Noida was truly fun and gratifying. No wonder as Sanyukta had rightly convinced us, the marketplace is a street food haven that has some delectable gems whose brilliance you can’t escape. We are truly grateful to her for her assistance.