East India – Home of Tribal and Natural Food

The eastern region of India has prominent states like West Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. Like other parts of India, West Bengal’s food is heavily influenced by Hindu and Mughal traditions. Since many rivers pass through this region, fish delicacies prepared with coconut milk and rice are staple foods. Bengal is the home of popular milk-based sweets like rosogolla (cheese ball dipped in sugar syrup), mishti doi (made with sugar and yoghurt), and kheer (rice pudding).


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Oriya cuisine is popular in the state of Orissa; rice and vegetable curry is popular in this region. The curry is prepared with mild spices and little oil. Oriya cuisine has jaggery, coconut, and ghee in their food preparation.

The state of Bihar, home of Lord Buddha, has food similar to other nearby states. During the days of Buddha, rice is the staple food cooked with milk and honey. The Brahmins in Mithila cook their vegetarian food in strict accordance with their ancient religious beliefs. Split rice with curd is the popular dish for the people live in Mithila.

Several small states like Assam, Manipur, Mehalaya, Mizoram, Nagland, Sikkam, Tripura, and Arunachal Pradesh are in the east side of India. Each state has its own food culture and tradition that are blended from other food traditions in India.

In Assam, tekeli pithas is a popular food which is similar to South Indian idlis but made with grated coconut, jaggery and sesame inside it. A Naga kitchen is popular for Naga pork thali. Here the thali consists of rice, boiled vegetables, meat, dal, potato gravy, lemon, and explosive varieties of chutney.

Popular dishes of Manipuri cuisines are iromba (dish prepared with boiled vegetables, fermented fish and chilly), champhut (boiled vegetables), and hawai (dal). Vegetables are an important part of their food preparation. Singju and Manipuri salad prepared with cut vegetables, roasted peas, and grounded sesame is another popular Manipuri food.

In Meghalaya, rice and pork are the staple foods. Dishes like jadoh (made with rice, pork, ginger, turmeric, and onions), doh khleh (salad made with pork), doh iong (made with pork and black sesame curry) are popular local delicacies in Meghalaya. The tribal communities in Meghalaya have their own food tradition and culture that are spread all over Meghalaya. The Khasi tribe’s food jadoh is popular throughout Meghalaya.

Non-vegetarian food is the popular food in Mizoram; kitchens of Mizoram have rice with meat and vegetables served on the side. Everyday meals consist of vegetarian food and meat is cooked on weekends and on festive seasons. One of the most demanded delicacies of this state is vawksa rep (smoked pork) cooked with bamboo shoots on an open fire with herbs, giving a unique smoky taste to it. Another popular Mizoram dish is bai (vegetables stew cooked with various vegetables and herbs).

People in Nagland, referred to as Naga tribes, use chillies and spices in their daily cooking. Non-vegetarian food is popular in Naga cuisine. Generally they do not waste any part of the animal; skins and intestines are considered to be their favorite parts of animals in their cooking. Some of the delicacies are beef and pork pickles made with one of the spiciest chillies in the world called Raja Mircha. Pork cooked with bamboo shoot, smoked, fermented, dried meat, fish, and smoked eel are some of common food cooked in Naga’s kitchens.

The state of Sikkim is the home of three major groups of people,-the Nepalese, the Lepchas, and the Bhutias. Each group has contributed its own food culture and tradition to Sikkim. Momos (made with flour and water dough) is popular in this region; it is a food that originated from Tibet and Nepal. Another popular dish is thukpa (noodle soup with vegetables). Chhurpi ko achar is a local pickle made with dried fish and herbs, and is eaten with rice; it is a must have delicacy for non-vegetarian food lovers. Sikkim, due to its local proximity with Himalayas, is blessed with green vegetation, exotic plants, trees, and herbs. Using green plants Naga tribes skillfully create several mouth-watering delicacies that are hallmark of this state. Ningro (alpine fiddlehead ferns) cooked with cottage cheese and gundruk leaves of mustard oil plant (dried in sun and cooked with onions and tomatoes) are mouthwatering vegetarian treats for veggie lovers.

Tripura is one of the smallest states in India which is in close proximity to Bangladesh and the Indian states of Assam and Mizoram, so it inherited the food culture from these places. Rice and fish are the staple foods for the people in Tripura. The tribal community of Tripura cooks various non-vegetarian foods that include chicken, beef, pork, crab, fish, and turtle. Godhak (made with dry fish, vegetables, and chilly), and bangoi (made with pork) are popular Tripura cuisine that are taken with rice.

Arunachal Pradesh food and culture is greatly influenced by the tribal people living in this region. Generally the tribal cuisine in this region does not use oil or other generic spices used in other regions of India. Due to its close proximity with Himalayas, people use exotic nutritional herbs that are not available in other parts of India. Fermented bamboo shoots, green vegetables, and herbs are the main ingredients in their food preparation. For non-vegetarian cooking they use pork, chicken, beef, fish, insects, and other wild animals.

Rice is the staple food in Arunachal Pradesh and they cook it either in a pot or in bamboo tubes. The bamboo tubes are filled with rice and water and cooked using steam. Once it is cooked the rice is removed from the bamboo tubes and served on big leaves. Cooking the rice in bamboo tubes is the local tradition in this region. Bamboo tubes are also used for other types of cooking as well. Some of the other popular food in this tribal region are shya phrum rimom (made from meat, paneer, and green algae), putang (made with buckwheat), and kakun (made with roasted maize). Tribal people in Arunachal Pradesh also drink locally made alcoholic beverages like themsing (made from barley or finger millet ) and rakshi (made from barley, rice, millet, or maize).

Most of the states in East India are home to tribal people who live close to nature. Many of their food traditions are unique and are not seen in other parts of India. But they do blend other Indian food cultures in their food preparation giving unique food habits.

Author:

I love to read and write about various aspects of India, people, culture, history, tradition, food, etc. My goal for this web site is to help westerns understand India that are not generally available in other web sites.

Comments

  1. I have heard of the bamboo being used as a utensil to cook.
    In Kerala the steamed rice (puttu) used to be made in sawn off bamboo stubs and it used to be so tasty.

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