Nagaland, the wild east of India, is breathtaking in its landscapes and valleys and has a rich tribal culture. Little is known about the traditional and local food of the Naga tribes. The Naga cuisine is known for its variety and simplicity. This lesser explored cuisine uses no oil, less spices and more of local herbs, resulting in bland yet delicious and flavourful dishes. The traditional Naga meals are basically boiled meals with a distinct odour and flavour. Let us have a look at some of the dishes that you must try if you get
1. Smoked Pork with Axon
Axone or akhuni is a homemade fermented soybean dal. It is known for its strong pungent smell and is one of the main ingredients of Naga food as it is used as an additive or side dish. It is made in large quantities at home and can be stored for upto months.
How is it made?
- The soaked soyabeans are boiled and left for fermentation in a basket over a fireplace for 4-5 days.
- These are then mashed into a paste and then wrapped in sycamore leaves to form cakes and again left above a fireplace for another couple of days.
- Once it is ready for consumption it can be stored for months and is used in many Naga dishes and pickels for added flavor.
For Smoked Pork
- The pork is smoked for upto two days and only then it is roasted in its own fat with salt, garlic and red chillies.
- To this roasted pork axone is added and cooked for some more time.
- Naga ginger is a locally available variety of ginger with a distinct flavor and taste. It is used for the garnishing of this exquisite dish.
Even a simple traditional Naga meal with no meat and only vegetables and herbs can be so delicious. One such dish is akibiye. This is a simple yet flavoursome delicacy made of colocasia (also known as arbi) and bamboo shoot.
- The colocasia/arbi is simply cooked first and peeled.
- This boiled colocasia is again cooked with salt and some local herbs which are mostly sour leaves. These local herbs which are the Naga favourites are found in the forests of Nagaland and give this dish its exotic flavor.
- The mixture of colocasia and herbs is then gently mashed together and served with rice and pickle and /or chutney.
A yet another favourite of the Naga tribe is Galho. It’s a close relative of north Indian Khichdi, only with some meat. This dish was originally created by the Angami tribe.
- For this recepie axone and green chillies are boiled in a pot of water with salt.
- To this smoked meat (beef/pork) is added and cooked until the meat becomes soft.
- Then the rice is added and in the end some chopped greens and the dish is ready to serve.
4. Fish In Bamboo
A most popular delicacy of Nagaland is fish in bamboo. The fish is boiled with fermented bamboo shoots and is served in every Naga household. This exotic dish is easy to make and tastes divine.
- The green chillies, naga ginger and garlic are mashed together in a mortar pestle to make a coarse mixture. It can also be blended in a blender to make a course mixture.
- This mixture is again mixed with fish and salt and added in a pan.
- The fish is boiled in bamboo shoot juice without stirring it.
- They spread coriander leaves on top after cooking the fish.
- Once the dish is completely cool,it is ready to serve and it tastes best when tried the next day after cooking.
5. Akini Chokibo
The Naga cuisine comprises of a variety of meat and one among them is snail meat. It is quite popular among the Naga tribes. Chokibo in their native language means snails and akini is nothing but perilla seeds. Perilla seeds are a type of herb which are closely related to the mint family.
To this sometimes pork and axone is also added to enhance its flavor. It is a stew like dish and served with rice and pickle but many people also just love to slurp this savoury by itself alone.
Some health benefits of Naga Food
- Since the Naga cooking uses no oil, and mostly boiling as a method of cooking, their dishes are very healthy and refreshing.
- Also axone which is a main ingredient of many Naga dishes is a product of soyabean fermentation which makes it rich in protein content.
- Another advantage of axone lies in the fact that it is a probiotic. As it is formed by a process of fermentation, it consists of live bacteria which are helpful for the digestive system.
- These dishes are not only a treat for your taste buds but also a benevolence to your body.
This story is written by Dr. Swati Singh.
Dr. Swati is a dental surgeon by profession.But also like to explore new places and their cultures and believe that the heart of every place and culture is in their traditional cuisine. She feast on the idea of sharing a little of what I can about the diverse cultures, traditions and cuisines within our own country.