With all its scenic beauty, Pokhara is one of the most enchanting valleys in Nepal. The green hills, lakes, forests, rivers, waterfalls, terraced fields etc are like a balm for the weary soul. Popularly known as “City of Tourism”, it city is quite free from any kind of pollution. Tourists flock here to enjoy its natural beauty and also to take part in adventure sports that this place is famous for too. So during our Nepal Food Tour, we were here to explore the culinary side of this postcard perfect place. And in this exploration we were joined by our host Kamal Bhatta who has explored this place well. Our gastronomic journey started with a pleasant stroll around the cobbled and beatified pathways around the Phewa lake. Here you will find quite a few hawkers selling fresh food items mostly breads , pastries etc in wicker baskets. We bought a cinnamon roll and croissant from an old lady and a young man respectively. They were quite decent in taste and fresh as well.
From there we went to visit the Gupteswar Mahadev Temple and Davi’s Fall. This famous cave has many shrines, the most important of which is the temple of Lord shiva. Within 2-3 km of Davi’s Fall there are many eateries, few of which are very popular. So we went to Mt. Kailash Tibetan Restaurant for some yummy and authentic Tibetan style momo and shabaley. Everything that we tried at this small eatery was quite impressive. Next we went to another Tibetan restaurant run by a Nepali lady who has lived in Punjab. There we ordered some Bhaklep(Tibetan bread), curry and Po Cha(salty butter tea). The naan like, griddle baked flat bread along with a simple curry made of potatoes, ridge gourd and chicken was quite a hearty combination.
We then went to the Lakeside part of Phewa lake that is known for swanky restaurants and hangout spots. The Duna Tapari restaurant here specializes in an awesome fish based menu. Fish lovers from far and near come here for traditional fish based delicacies made from the fresh catch sourced from the lake. We ordered Bitte tareko, Hans Choila, Paphar ko roti, polecko machha, machha jhol, machha surawa and few other things. Fresh ingredients and right use of condiments and masalas everything tasted brilliant. After some recreational activities nearby, as evening approached we got hungry and went to have the Traditional Thenkthuk from Sherpa Kitchen. This pretty restaurant is run by a Sherpa family. We saw how the simple yet comforting soup was prepared using common ingredients. But it was the seasoning of the very versatile local pepper called Timmur that enhanced its flavours.
Our last stop for the day was a popular restaurant named Fewa Thakali Bhanchha. As the name suggests it was all about Thakali cuisine. We ordered the Cheli set. The term refers to aunt so it is a platter dedicated to the lovely ladies in our life. There were nearly 12 things in the platter including starter, main course and beverage. The most impressive components of this set were steamed Jetha Budho rice, Mustang simi beans dal, Aloo tareko, Aloo dhameko, Fish fry, Mutton fry and chutneys. It was indeed a super gratifying meal. Everything was balanced and flavourful especially the Jetha Budo rice which is like the Basmati Rice of Nepal.
We are grateful to Kamal for this interesting food tour set amidst the natural grandeur of this place. Till next time keep walking and keep exploring. And for all the food related details check the video linked above.
Taking ahead our food escapades in Nepal, in this episode we are exploring some authentic ethnic recipes from the cities of Kirtipur and Lalitpur. Along with our gracious and genial host Sanam Chitrakar, we visited two very special eateries that specialises in traditional food from different parts of Nepal. This gastronomic journey includes a scrumptious experience from Newa Lahana in Kirtipur and Raithaane in Lalitpur(Patan). Kirtipur is an ancient city teeming with history, heritage, rich culture and hospitality, stunning landscape views and several monuments. We started with Kirtipur. Situated at the distance of 5km south-west from the Kathmandu, it is a center of Newar culture.
Here, Newa Lahana is a community run restaurant and open museum working towards the promotion and conservation of the Newar culture. With fully traditional setting, arrangements and menu, it is a flag bearer in presenting authentic Newari cuisine to the world. As we entered the kitchen, we were greeted by a jolly, dexterous and busy team of local womenfolk dressed in their traditional Haku Patasi. The menu here was quite extensive. We ordered Chatamari (rice pancakes with meat and egg), Samay Bhaji(Snacks Platter), Wo(lentil pancake), Chusya Mushya(grain based snacks platter), Shyapu Mhicha(bone marrow stuffed buffalo tripe) , Yomari(steamed rice cakes with jaggery filling) along with some native rice based liquor. The home style food was fresh and super flavourful.
The variety flavours and textures was simply impressive. There is so much dynamism in the cuisine that leaves you gratified. Our ultimate favourite of the lot was the toothsome Yomari. The jaggery oozing out into mouth from the steamed rice cakes transports you to a blissful zone where its just you and this popular (revered) dessert. But the liquor made from fermented rice was strong and sharp for our palette.
From there we went to Lalitpur(Patan) to another special restaurant named Raithaane. Founded by three passionate young men, it intends to introduce the world to the traditional ingredients and components of the ethnic Nepalese cuisines through its super fascinating menu. It is like the amalgamation of the under appreciated and under rated aspects- be it ingredients or cooking techniques-of Nepal’s food traditions. Here we were joined by Prasantha Khanal, a co founder of the place who briefed us about the lesser known dishes and ingredients from different parts of Nepal. On his recommendation, we tried some very unusual dishes. So there were Rikikur(savoury potato pancakes), Kanchemba(buckwheat fries) and Chamre Fakse( aromatic rice with pork and wild lichen dish). Prasantha patiently familiarized us with the details of the dishes. The taste and flavours were very unique and unprecedented. Our favourite was the kanchambe with Timmur Chop(dried spice mix made with a local chilli). The experience at Raithaane was gratifying and insightful. We are grateful to Sanam for taking us around to such amazing places, to the amazing team at Newa Lahana and Raithaane for such amazing food and great hospitality and to Prasantha for all the insights. Till next time keep walking and Keep exploring.
As a part of our ongoing Nepal Food Series, we are at Bhaktapur or the City of Devotees to explore its unique food traditions. It is named so as it has three major squares full of towering pagoda style temples that boasts of some of the finest religious architecture in the country. The remarkable structures- with exquisite wood carvings and metal craft- pervading the cityscape, transported us to ancient times. Moreover the car free city centre here is a happening spot teeming with tourists and locals. As you stroll down the lanes, you discover how art and craft occupies a significant place in the culture of Bhaktapur. The alleyways with varied shops and workshops are a testimony to its vibrant cultural heritage that is still very dynamic. Once you reach here you will find yourselves amidst friendly natives.
In our gastronomic exploration at this sleepy city we are joined by our foodie host Kamal Bhatta who is keenly familiar with the traditions of this place. The menu out here, on the streets is mostly Newari food. Come let’s see what all did we tried in this tour.
Before starting for Bhaktapur at morning, we relished some popular street side breakfast items at the main marketplace in Kathmandu. For this we first bought some Gwaramari(round, fried all purpose flour based sweet bread), Malpua, Sel Roti(ring-shaped, sweet rice bread), Jerry(similar to Jalebi) and Swaari(thin, soft puri) from different places and then settled down to have it with a glass of milky tea, just how the locals do. The most notable snack among these was the Sel Roti that was a ring shaped, deep fried sweet bread made with rice flour. Again Swaari and Jerry together made an interesting combination. The most delightful thing about the eating experience was witnessing them being prepared fresh. The dishes were simple, familiar but yummy and filling.
On reaching Bhaktapur, we embarked on a pleasant stroll down the alleys of this heritage city in search some quintessential food. Our first stop was a local sweet shop where we tried the Balbara and Gudpak. The first one is a sweet, crisp, deep fried, sugar glazed flatbread while the second one is a traditional fudge like sweet made with khoya, gond, ghee, nuts, etc. Its rich and dense texture reminded us of our very own Dodha Burfi.
Next we arrived at another sleepy lane where locals-kids, young and old-were relaxing or socialising on the raised verandah of the native buildings. We were here to have fresh and hot aloo chop or potato fritters. We loved the mildly spiced fritters served with a spicy chutney. From there we went to the simple looking Choila Specialist at Kamalvinayak, whose Choila, Thon and Aloo Tama are quite popular with the locals. The Choila here, which is a meat based appetizer was lip smacking and hence the name of the place stands quite justifiable. It is just small pieces of tender, perfectly grilled meat that is mixed with raw ginger garlic paste, chilli paste, salt, green garlic and dressed with heated mustard oil. The flavourful Choila effortlessly complimented the traditional rice based alcoholic drink Thon or Chyang. Another traditional Newari dish the Aloo Tama, a delicious curry made with potatoes, bamboo shoots, black eyed peas etc. was delicious too.
After those robust tastes we went to try the iconic Juju Dhau or ‘King Curd’ that is one of the must try delicacy in the region. We were bowled over by the thick, luscious, velvety and creamy texture of this buffalo milk based curd. Do notice the hint of earthiness that comes from the earthenware used to set it.
Next were the turn another Newari dish Barra and Wo which are essentially savoury black lentil pancakes. Just as we entered the place we were greeted by a smiling old lady sitting behind a busy griddle full of round Barras. These delicious lentil pancakes can be customised into different forms. So you can have the plain ones, ones with just meat or just eggs and then the ones with both meat and eggs. They serve it with a spicy and tangy channa curry or dry potato sabzi. The lentils lend it a nice, soft and fluffy body while the cooked minced meat and and eggs adds to the flavours. Interacting with Ama, the genial lady running the Barra counter with such an effortless ease was a memorable experience. More than the irresistible aromas suffusing the place, the warmth exuding from Ama gave us homely vibes.
Our last food destination was Bhetghat restaurant in Kathmandu which serves a very special meat dish from the Chitwan region called Taas. It is an amazing dish consisting of crisp and tender shallow fried meat pieces served with puffed rice and radish pickles. The flavoursome taste of meat, basic spices and most importantly mustard oil conjured up nostalgia of this dish that he had tried at his birthplace Muzzafarpur, Bihar. Do come and bond over a plate of Taas. With our tummy and heart both contended, we wrapped up the tour.
Heartfelt thanks to Kamal for taking us to such gem of places. Till next time keep walking and keep exploring.
When you think of the most ubiquitous street food in Nepal, there flashes the sight of piping hot momo that warms the cockles of your heart and makes you drool. If you take a stock of the culinary scene on the busy streets and alleys and you will get to fathom the phenomenal popularity of this dish. Such is the craze, especially among the young crowd that that momo have attained the status of unofficial national dish of the country. Hence we are on a momo trail to taste the incredible variety that is available locally. To guide us on this fascinating culinary trail featuring this quintessential Nepalese dish we are joined by Kamal who is a momo aficionado too.
Our first stop was Ghangri Cafe at Jhamshel, Kathmandu. This place is famous for what is known as open momo or Sui Mui momo. Available in chicken, pork and buff, they are loved for their unique flower-like shape and of course their unparalleled taste. One bite is enough to fall in love with these open momos. As the three different chutneys accompanying the delicacy reaches the stuffing inside the momo through the open ends it infuses them with a vibrant character and transforms them into tiny bombs of flavours. Apart from the taste what we loved about them was that the juiciness is very much intact in these momo.
The next stop was Mahabharat momo in Patan Dhoka. Before trying their popular Jhol momo, we first witnessed the making of the momo in the kitchen. This kind of momo originated from the Newari community. It was fascinating to watch a team of young workers efficiently doling out momo in lightning speed. We then tried a plateful of freshly steamed momo that is to be eaten with the creamy and spicy sesame, peanuts, soyabean and fresh coriander based broth. The momo and the broth are served separately and one has to dunk them in the broth and have them together to get the real feel of the combo.
Next was the turn of another batch of jhol momos at Narayan Dai Ko Mashangali. This variant was completely different from the previous Jhol Momos as the broth here was thin, spicy and tangy due to the use of a local sour fruit called Lapsi Nepali Hog Plum (Choerospondias axillaris). They serve you fresh chicken, mutton or buff momo in a bowl which you need to submerge with ladle full of this sour, runny broth from the huge clay vessels kept at the counter and enjoy. The taste was indeed very unique and irresistible. The momo were perfectly done and the broth just accentuate the whole flavour profile.
Our next destination was a Sinka restaurant which is famous for Chaat momo and the unique Sizzler momo. The first one is zesty, sweet and sour combination of fried chicken momos that is topped with beaten curd, chutneys, peanuts, onions and chaat masala. This chat was quite unique and flavoursome. Trying a Chaat with fried momo as the base was a novel experience for us. The second dish is a sizzler platter comprising of steamed chicken momos, stir fried noodles and stir fried veggies,. This one was flambeed with Khukri Rum and had very interesting Continental flavours that came from the various herbs used in the dish.
Our final destination in the trail was a quaint and cosy eatery named Noyoz. Here we met the very graceful food connoisseur and entrepreneur, Susan Karmacharya who was there to guide us more about the momo culture in Nepal. Here we tried a couple of their bestsellers like the smoked pork and aloo nimki along with two kinds of momo- the kothey momo and steamed chicken momo in white sauce. The smoked pork was succulent, fatty, flavoursome, smoky and hearty. Aloo nimki, a popular Nepalese snacks, with multitude flavours was a welcome change.
It was such a memorable momo journey where we relished some of the best momo from the city and met some really amazing people who are serving it to the masses. Heartfelt thanks to Kamal and Susan for their insights that resulted in such a gratifying trail. Till next time Keep walking and keep exploring.
As the part of our maiden international food exploration, we have arrived at Nepal, a small yet ravishingly beautiful country with rich cultural heritage, incredibly friendly and fun loving populace and fascinating food traditions. The country combining magnificent views of the Himalayas, temples, quaint hill villages and flourishing wildlife and many more is undoubtedly one of the world’s great travel destinations. Our first culinary destination here is the capital city of Kathmandu. We are on a gastronomic tour of this endearing city with our gracious host Kamal Bhatta. Kamal is a filmmaker and a food enthusiast. He shares a deep bond-which reflects in his suggestions of places for food and the stories he shared- with this quaint city and its culinary traditions. We are immensely grateful for his inputs and guidance.
Our first food stop was a roadside stall in the marketplace at Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, serving a basic breakfast fare of dry potato sabzi, fried eggs and dry black chana preparation. This wholesome combination is the preferred food of the working class masses who look out for food that’s wholesome, filling, energy giving and affordable. And it clearly fits the bill. We enjoyed this humble thing sitting on low stools amidst the busy marketplace.
From their we went to have the famous Thakali Thali at Thakali Bhanchha Ghar. It is a set menu from the Thak Khola region of Mustang, Nepal. This quintessential platter consists of 7-8 items like rice, black daal, dhedo(cooked buckwheat dough), lightly spiced meat, aloo bhujuri, saag (spinach), chicken gravy, gundruk and an assortment of pickles. The notable dishes among these are the Dhedo which is a soft cooked dough made of buckwheat flour and water, Aloo bhujuri or crisp fried thin potato julienne and Gundruk that is fermented and dehydrated Spinach cooked with soyabean and tomatoes. Rich in carbohydrate, Dhedo is bland and it acquires the flavours of the curry that it is served with. Gundruk on the other hand is spicy and tangy and hence is a perfect accompaniment to the Dal and rice platter. This balanced Thali is a favourite with the office goers mostly those who can’t don’t have the time and opportunity to partake home cooked food.
Next Kamal took us to the Boudha area around the huge Boudhanath Stupa. Being a Tibetan settlement, the dominant food culture here is the Tibetan food. So we went to Khawa Karpo Tasty Noodles factory for plate of hot and delicious in house noodles. Here we first saw the preparation of the noodles from scratch and then tried a plate of freshly made noodles with shredded omelette. The noodles were made in machines from a dough prepared with all purpose flour, eggs and salt. It’s then rolled into sheets and cut into thin strips which are hanged on wooden sticks to dry. Once ready they are boiled and mixed with garlic, soy sauce, spring onions, chilli sauce, shredded omelette or mince. It was simply one of the best noodles we have ever tasted. the freshness was so stark.
Next was the turn of Zomsa restaurant for the popular breakfast dish called Ponche which is a well made, soft bao filled with cooked minced meat. People prefer it for its fluffy texture and savoury flavour. From there we went to CD Laphing center which reportedly serves the best Laphing in the city. This Tibetan delicacy made with Mung beans starch or all purpose flour is loved for its warm, spicy and comforting taste. The yellow coloured Ala were more delicious than the plain Laphing. Both resemble a thin, silky, smooth and gelatinous savoury pancake and are served with soya sauce, chilli oil etc
We then headed on to have another Tibetan delicacy Ashabhaley. It was a variation of the Shabaley which is mostly fried pastry stuffed with meat mince. But this one is pan roasted dough pastry stuffed with a mildly flavoured minced meat mixture was quite yummy. The fun part was the juices from the meat that had drenched the cooked mince.
Our final destination for the day was a very popular place named the Yangtaru Sekuwa corner. The kitchen was huge barbecue hub where marinated pieces of chicken, mutton and pork were being grilled on trays stacked inside closed wood fire ovens. The indigenous grilling technique results in the most toothsome barbecue meat. Our co host Sanam informed us that this oven technique is native to the Limbu community of Nepal. The succulent and smoky pieces of meat with the optimum marination is a must try for all meat lovers. We thoroughly enjoyed a plateful of chicken sekuwa and chicken wings with puffed rice mixture. What a gratifying food tour it was at Kathmandu.
Ghaziabad is a populous city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Situated at a distance of nearly 42 km away from Delhi, it is an old industrial city that is now the part of the National Capital Region of Delhi. The insatiable hunger pangs inside drew us to its loud and busy precincts. We were pleasantly surprised by the eclectic gastronomic scenario in here. As you negotiate through the bustling thorough fares of the marketplace at old Ghaziabad, you discover that this busy trade center is a foodie’s haven too. The street food here is mix of traditional and contemporary favourites. Many of the traditional shops are as old as over sixty-five years or more and they gave us a semblance of Old Delhi. Inspite of the heavy influx of modern and international influences, majority of the population still loves to gorge on the zesty traditional street food fares like Chaats, Moonglet, Dahi bhalle etc. There are truly some good eateries whose foods and stories will make you fall in love with them. After visiting the city on three different occasions, we have come up with a basic list of the the go-to places that you can explore. The food scene is so diverse and widespread that we need multiple visits to actually come up with a comprehensive list of the same.
1. MOONGLET WALA(GHANTA GHAR)
Moonglet is the most preferred street food of Ghaziabad. These toothsome, savoury, lentil based pancakes are a craze with the crowd here. It’s resemblance to an omelette has earned it the name Moonglet i.e. moong dal based omelette. It’s is must-try delicacy in this part of the city. Try it for the buttery mouthfeel leaves you happy.
2. DEEPAK KANJI VADA(AGRASEN BAZAAR)
Check out this neat cart selling Kanji Vadas for the past 35 years to the discerning masses. This light and healthy snacks comprises of lentil dumplings dunked in mustard flavoured fermented water. Try it for its refreshing, filling and healthy goodness. It is a traditional summertime snack from the states of UP and Rajasthan.
3. LOKNATH SWEETS(GALI LOKNATH, CHAUPLA MANDIR)
One of the oldest sweet shop in the locality this place is famous for its luscious Rabri and Rasmalai. Their sweets are so popular that they even to travel far off places. We had tried the above two desserts along with Chenar Kheer. The well-made classics won’t disappoint us at all. The sweets are fresh, pure and most importantly, optimally sweet. Another popular stuff is their Lassi which the visitors and the traders swear by to beat their exhaustion.
4. HATHRAS CHAAT BHANDAR
Here you will get to taste the Hathras famed Aloo Tikkiya. Hahthras is a town in western Uttar Pradesh that is known for its Rabri and these zesty sweet and savoury Tikkis and Chaats. This one is a simple snack of plain deep-fried Aloo patties that is served with chutneys and curd. It is not that outstanding but not disappointing as well.
5. RAKESH EGG POINT
Rakesh egg point is a paradise for egg lovers. They serve a delightful and scrumptious range of egg preparation among which the bestsellers are the Egg Lolo Popo and Egg Curry. As evening sets in people throng this stall to relish the hot and fresh egg dishes that includes old classics and fusion or contemporary stuffs.
6. YADAV JI KE DAHI BHALLE
This mobile cart circling the bustling marketplace serves a luscious and yummy Dahi Bhalle to the Chaat lovers. The Dahi Bhallas or lentil-based fried dumplings are served with smooth and sweet beaten curd, crushed papdis, chutneys and roasted cumin powder. This chilled, lip-smacking dish is a thing of joy.
7. GOYAL PAAN SHOP(NAVYUG MARKET)
Paan enthusiasts can check this place for their craving.
8. SAIYA JI POORI WALA(MALIWARA ROAD, NEHRU NAGAR)
Yearning for some traditional breakfast platter, then head to this joint for their breakfast platter consisting of fresh hot Pooris, sweet and sour pumpkin sabzi, spicy potato curry, coriander chutney and a savoury raita. Best part of this unpretentious meal is the leaf plate that enhances the eating experience. Finish it off with a Mohan Bhog, a sweet that resembles a milk cake in taste and texture.
9. LALMAN LASSI WALA(OPP. PURANA BUS ADDA)
A glass of their lusciously chilled lassi will dispel your fatigue and refresh you effectively. The unique thing behind its sweet, smooth and refreshing taste is the pleasant earthy overtone that came from the earthenware in which the curd is set and also the one in which it is served.
10. PANDIT HOTEL(NEHRU NAGAR)
It is a typical North Indian styled Dhaba whose menu was quite elaborate. We had settled for their Navratri thali that has been introduced during festivity. It included two buckwheat and water chestnut flour based Pooris, a thin potato curry, curd, kheer and potato wafers. Everything was quite satisfying but it was the Shama or Millet Kheer that stood out in the group. Due to its appropriate location, it is a popular stop for the heavy vehicles passing through the nearby highway.
11. LALAJI CHAAT CORNER( TURAB NAGAR)
Turab Nagar is a popular cloth market and when the hunger pangs strikes you in the midst of your pursuits then you can consider this joint that is swarmed with a eager crowd impatiently waiting for the zesty Aloo tikkis. the shoppers love it this ubiquitous and lip smacking snack.
12. MUSKAN BURGER(KAVI NAGAR)
When in Kavi Nagar, try the spicy Hot Dogs from this counter that is a huge hit with the young crowd. Over a few years, the hot dog has evolved into a go to snacks that has caught the fancy of the masses. The masala hot dog is a zesty filling of a well cooked vegetable mash. Its filling and irresistible.
13. PORWAL JI KA NANO SAMOSA(KAVI NAGAR)
This small yet busy cart with a super exciting name-Porwal Ji Ka Nano Samosa serves small sized samosas, a perfect accompaniment to any conversation. The word nano refers to the small sized samosas sold in here. These mildly spiced samosas are super fun to have. Do try them if you are looking for some easy thing to pop in.
14. PAHALWAN DHABA(CHOTTI BAJARIA)
This 65 plus years old Dhaba serves great North Indian food in the area. Their super popular dish is Dhaba Style Chicken curry. Its is rich, robust, greasy, spicy yet very delicious. The right quantity and taste makes it as a value for money dish.
15. PANDIT JI KA SP. MATRA CHAAT(LOHIA NAGAR)
This place is a household name in the locality. Panditji’s unique fruit and yellow peas chaat has made him a celebrity. It is a zesty mixture of fruits and boiled lentils like Moong and Matra or yellow peas that is flavoured with spice mix, chutneys and lime juice. True to its glory, the taste is refreshingly addictive; a riot inside the mouth. Don’t forget to try it if you like the components that builds it.
16. GANDHI OMELETTE WALA(NAVYUG MARKET).
People throng this joint for the comforting bread and egg dish named egg roll. Unlike the regular roll which we are familiar with, it is made from a frothy, beaten egg mixture. Its appeal lies in the soft, fluffy and buttery texture. The crowd loves it and so did we.
17. MOHAN’S ICE CREAM STALL(GHANTAGHAR)
They serve special mixed fruit ice cream garnished with cherry compote. This humble chilled treat has a very homely taste that will stay with you and consequently turn you into an admirer.
18. GOYAL PAAN CORNER
This place deserves a special mention not just for their Paan but also for refreshingly yummy range of homemade, seasonal fruit juices.
With this we come to the end of this list. There are so many more eateries to explore which we will eventually discover for you. Till then keep walking and keep exploring. And for more details check out the links below:
Starting this week onward Delhi Food walks brings you a new series named Ethnic Food Tour series that catalogues our food explorations across the diverse and rich tribal panorama of our country and beyond.
It commences with the rustic cuisine of the Rabha tribe from Assam. The Rabhas are the indigenous tribal groups from Assam who belong to the Indo-Mongoloid group of people. In Assam they are mostly settled in Goalpara, Kamrup, Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Baksa, Bongaigaon, Chirang, Sonitpur and Karbi Anglong districts. Agriculture, forest based activities and weaving are the mainstay of their traditional economy in general. Rabha women are skilled weavers who usually make their garments on their own. However due to the lack of market opportunities and external support their exquisite skill haven’t yet transformed into a thriving livelihood opportunity.
Getting back to their cuisine, rice is the staple food of the Rabhas who are completely non vegetarians. Local herbs and edible insects are the essential components of their daily diet. The simple and rustic dishes have minimum use of spices and condiments. Home brewed rice beer is widely consumed not only during special occasions but on a daily basis. Their meal is hued with unique earthy notes because all of their ingredients are primarily sourced from the forests and local farms. To discover more about them, we visited the Ujan Rabhapara village in Kakoijana in Bongaigaon district of Assam along with our brilliant hosts Chayanika, Sishir and Risha whose insights helped us to get familiar with the new culture with ease.
En route to the village, we stopped at a local household to try Assamese Jolpan. It is the umbrella term for the traditional breakfast dishes that the locals relish daily. The Assamese word ‘Jolpan’ refers to both breakfast and evening snacks that includes different forms of the wide variety of local rice that are eaten with jaggery and curd. Typically, the base ingredient includes any one of the following-kumol saul (uncooked but soaked rice), sira (flattened rice), moori (puffed rice) etc. One can customise it with banana, sweet boondi, rasgulla etc. It also includes other preparations like Pitha and Nadu. We tried the most elementary of them i. e the Sira Doi gur and boondi laddo. It was such a comforting combination.
After a short drive, we reached Ujan Rabhapara. Nestled amidst the green canopy of the Kakoijana forest expanse, this quaint sleepy village is home to the Rabhas. Kakoijana is the home to the endangered golden langur. Along with our hosts Chayanika, Sisir, Risha and Sanjib Sharma, we met the welcoming womenfolk from the village who had all gathered to cook a traditional Rabha meal for us. Since agriculture based activity are the mainstay of their livelihood, their cuisine is naturally dominated by the components from the same.
Hence it isn’t a surprise that it includes rice which is the staple, various local herbs, meats, fishes and insects. Bugs and insects like the silkworm, red ants, grasshoppers etc. are the delicacies that define their cuisine.
Another important element of the Rabha cuisine is the local rice beer called Chokoth, that is brewed in almost all households and is consumed almost daily. We tried it along with the genial locals. The taste profile of this alcoholic beverage was on the sweeter side. It is prepared by fermenting local rice along some herbs. After a period of 15 to 20 days they get ready for consumption.
The meal was prepared over the wood fire. Watching the herbs wilt in oil along with onions etc was a joyful experience although the addition of the silkworms or the red ants did make us apprehensive as it was our maiden attempt to try them. For the Rabhas these creatures are a nrich source of protein and so they are an important part of their regular diet. In no time with the collective efforts of the amazing womenfolks, the meal was ready. It was served in the local manner i.e. on the banana leaves. The meal comprised of the following- steamed rice, Mai Posung(steamed sticky rice with coconut) Skunkvine fritters, Silkworm with herbs, Posola di Kukura Mankho(country chicken cooked with banana stem), Taukam Bamshi(country chicken cooked with rice flour), Bakham(roasted pork), Hissa Pichi(Eggs of the red ants), Kekura bota(Crab Chutney), Guti aloo Aru Dhekiya Bhaji(baby potatoes with fiddlehead ferns) and Chokoth. Honestly some of the dishes like the silkworm and the dry fish chutney were an acquired taste that didn’t really catch our fancy although they weren’t at all weird. After finishing with the lunch we ate the Tamul and got ready for our departure. But what a humble experience it was with the simple and lively locals and of course the serene natural setting.
We are truly grateful to our amazing hosts for walking us through the fascinating landscape of the Rabha Cuisine with such enthusiasm and patience.
This time our gastronomic pursuits have brought us to the largest of the North Indian states, Assam. Well known for its sprawling tea gardens, national parks, paddy fields, the mighty river Brahmaputra and an artistic heritage, Assam has emerged as a popular tourist destination. Its vibrant cuisine makes it an important food destination for foodie travelers.
Stretching 600km along the Brahmaputra River Valley, the archetypal Assamese landscape comprises of golden green rice fields and manicured tea estates. In the north, there are the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh and to the south there are the highlands of Meghalaya and Nagaland.
Once known as the Light of the East, the name Guwahati comes from the Assamese words “Guwa” meaning areca nut and “Haat” meaning village market. The largest and most cosmopolitan city in the region, Guwahati serves as the starting point for many journeys to different parts of the North Eastern belt.
Our food explorations in Assam began from the scenic place called the Chandubi lake situated around 64 km away from the capital city of Guwahati. Surrounded by forests, tea estates and small villages, this calm and picturesque area is a popular tourist spot.
This beautiful lake was formed as a result of the submergence of a part of the forest area during the devastating earthquake that had hit Assam in 1897. The glistening waters of Chandubi Lake is a rich habitat for different flora and fauna. Visitors can go for fishing and rowing. Taking a ride on a country boat is the best means to discover the pleasing waters of Chandubi.
At Chandubi we visited the Chandubi Jungle Camp along with our hosts Chayanika, Sisir and Risha to savour a traditional rustic meal prepared with local ingredients.
The scrumptious lunch spread at the retreat camp included the Tupula Bhat, Omita Khar, Assamese style chicken curry, Tangy fish curry, Aloo pitika, Koldil Bhaja, Bilahi Pora and dal. It was a simple and gratifying meal that introduced us to some new ingredients like Khar and thekera.
Khar is an integral part of Assamese cuisine and it is consumed at the beginning of the meal especially lunch. This indigenous thing is alkaline in nature. Assamese people cannot do without it and it is generally consumed once a week. It is prepared from the banana peel as well as the trunk of the banana plant.
In the evening we all gathered together to prepare bamboo chicken, bamboo pork and barbecued pork. Chicken or pork cooked in hollow bamboo stem is a popular delicacy in this region that has caught the fancy of the gourmet crowd from near and far. Although initially it appeared easy with the minimalist marinades and all but it wasn’t, as it needs practice to master this style. The outcome was delicious. We particularly loved the bamboo chicken and bamboo pork. We are super grateful to our amazing hosts for making us familiar with the wonderful local cuisine with so much warmth and patience.
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.
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 Pusla, an 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.