North - Eastern India PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 June 2010 05:30

Regional Cuisines      North-Eastern India



Q:    The North-East has a similar type of cuisine, much different from the rest of India?

A:   The assumption has a basis.  The North-Eastern states are called 'Seven Sisters'.  There must be similarities, I believe.  The states are Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura.

Q:     Are there any similarities in food habits?

A:   All the states are home to a large number of tribal communities.  Rice is a must, and all like fish (fresh or dried), and meat that includes bird meat.  In Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Nagaland, the large tribal population loves pork meat cooked with wild mushrooms or bamboo shoots. The Mizos (Mizoram) and the Nagas (Nagaland) are fond of all kinds of meat.  Everybody likes vegetables and the strong flavor of exotic herbs.  Bamboo-shoot delicacies are extremely popular.  And so are fermented rice and millet beer.

Inputs by Anindya Dutta Gupta

Photo credits: Aditya Dutta Gupta

1: Noodles

Regional Cuisines      North-Eastern India


Q:    What are the factors that have influenced Assam's cuisine?

A:   The cuisine of Assam reflects its history and the amalgamation of the many kinds of people that have lived here. So its no surprise that one might come across dishes which might seem sort of like a clash of two or more cultures, but as long as the taste glands are happy, no food lover would mind such clashes. A lot of factors like geography, climate, seasons, festivals, religion have also managed to influence not only the kind of food available, but also the way its cooked.

Q:     Do the people of Assam love non-vegetarian food?

A:    Assam is a state which connects the rest of India to the hill states further east. So as a result of its location the food habits the people have reflect the proper balance between simple non-vegetarian dishes and a pulse based vegetarian cuisine.  Mutton, chicken, pork, duck are the major varieties of meat that most people consume all throughout the year, barring a few religious occasions when people stick to a strict vegetarian diet.

Another item which features regularly in the Assamese cuisine list is Fish. The variety of dishes made using fish as the main ingredient is a testimony to the love the Assamese people have for fish. Tenga is a curry which uses some basic spices and a lot of tomatoes, and is the ideal gravy to most of the fish based dishes in Assam.

A traditional meal in Assam usually begins with Khar - made of papaya and pulses.  Pitika is made of mashed ingredients, like mashed potatoes are called Aloo Pitika. Alon with these there are many others like mashed brinjals with onions, coriander and green chillies. Special chutneys like the ones made of bamboo shoot, which is also used for cooking fish are common among the main courses (lunch and dinner).   A sour fish curry is the Tenga Maachor Jul (tangy fish curry).  Also popular is Hukuti, prepared from dried small fish like Puthi Maas.  The meat and fish dishes uses low amount of spices and oil, but with a liberal use of ginger, onion, garlic and green chillies.  Tamul (raw betel-nut) and Paan (betel leaf) are chewed as mouth fresheners at the end of a meal.  Assam is famous for its liquor tea.  Assamese love to drink them black, with milk, or even the spiced ones.

Q:     And what about vegetarian food?

A:    Having checked out so many non-vegetarian dishes, one might be surprised to know that there are a lot of options open for vegetarians as well.  This could be primarily due to the high number of religious festivals in the Assamese culture and also the somewhat questionable tradition of strict vegetarian diet for widows.

Now if you're looking up Assamese cuisines you must know about Khar - a traditional Assamese dish, generally used as an appetizer to a meal. Made out of the pulp extract from Papaya or Banana Plants, this is a symbol Assamese diet.

Q:   Could you tell me about the sweets of Assam?


A:    Being a state which boasts of a high amount of rainfall, the staple food is naturally rice. Not only is it the backbone of an ideal thali , but its harvest is the cause for the major festivals in Assam, and those festivals call for more delicacies. One such specialty is the Pitha, generally made and distributed around the Bihu season. Its primarily an Assamese version of a pancake, but it comes with different kinds of stuffing. Also popular is the Laru or Laddoo (as it is called in rest of India).  Generally the main ingredients are coconut or Til (sesame).

Inputs by Raj Das and Upasona Khound.

Raj is a freelance editor and content writer. Upasona is an M.Phil. student at Jawaharlal Nehru University.


Regional Cuisines     North-Eastern India


Q:      Are the food habits in Mizoram different from the other North-Eastern states?


A:   Mizoram, like her sister states of North-East India, follow the food habit of having as breakfast what people in other parts of India normally have as lunch. This basically means that during breakfast, heavy food i.e. rice with side dishes is taken. The side dishes can differ from family to family but the way it is prepared is almost always the same. In the afternoon, tea with snacks is taken and at dinner time, rice with side dishes is again taken. However, dinner is taken early in the evening, mostly at around 5:30 - 6:30 p.m.  Most Mizo dishes are bland and no chilli or spices are added. A separate chilli chutney is prepared and home-made pickles are also taken. Boiled dish is a common item and spinach is the most common amongst the boiled dishes. Also, bai is another dish that the Mizos can't do without. This dish is prepared by adding vegetables (depending on the kind of bai we want to prepare) into boiling water with green chilli and a pinch of baking soda. The rest of the dishes include fried vegetables, dal and meat, chicken or fish.

Q:      What are the other special dishes which are popular in Mizoram?


A:   Vawksa Chhum (boiled pork) is made with spinach and cabbage. Then there are beef (bawngsa) and chicken (Arsa) preparations. Bekang (fermented soyabeans) are used to make chutneys. Kurtai is a kind of sweet made out of jiggery. And Buhzu is a popular alchohol made of rice.

Inputs by Vanlalpari.

Vanlalpari is an M.Phil. student at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Photo Credits: Anindya Dutta Gupta

1: Preparing a dish

Regional Cuisines      North-Eastern India


Q:   How are the eating habits of Nagaland different from the most of the other states?


A:   The people of Nagaland prefer an early lunch. Lunch is usually ready by 7-9 am. The staple diet for lunch includes rice, gakameluo (boiled vegetables and pork, dry fish or beef), boiled leaves (mustard leaves) and chutney (green chili, tomato, and onion)

2-4PM  is the usual tea time when tea is consumed with kemenya  roti (fried reddish sticky rice with sugar). Kemenya roti is eaten specially during Christmas and other occasions.

5-7PM is the time for dinner when pork curry is eaten with a spicy preparation of bamboo shoots, boiled vegetables (mostly  leaves), rice and chutney.

Q:    What are the special dishes in Nagaland?


A:    Tenyilicha- a boiled dish which can be eaten with the following :

  • TENYILICHA  Thevo- is a pork preparation

  • TENYILICHA  Khuo- is a fish preparation

  • TENYILICHA  Kese- is a bamboo shoot preparation

  • TENYILICHA  Dache- is a fermented soyabean preparation

Q:     What are the other specialities of the cuisines of Nagaland?


A:   Galho is a preparation of rice, sour leaves, chillies and beef. This is mostly eaten during weddings.  Surprisingly, people who cook and make the food during the weddings get to eat the best delicacies i.e.  mostly intestines. Then there is Ngari which is fish used in different chutneys. And Zutho is alcohol made of rice. The juice of wild apple and banana are used to make intoxicants.

Inputs by Neizhanuo Golmei.

Neizha is an M.Phil. student at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Photo Credits:

1: Steamed Rice - Aditya Dutta Gupta

2: Fish with vegetables - Aditya Dutta Gupta

Regional Cuisines      North-Eastern India

Arunachal Pradesh

Q:     Could you tell me about the cuisine of Arunachal Pradesh, the north-east frontier of India?

A:    Arunachal Pradesh is home to the largest number of tribal communities with 26 major tribes.  They eat rice, especially a sticky form with names like Ekayi, Tongtep, Dungpoo, etc.  They eat rice with fish, meat, and lots of vegetables like lettuce.  Thukpa - a Tibetan noodle broth usually served with meat, is traditionally eaten by the Monpa tribe.  Opo or Apong is a popular alcoholic drink, made of fermented rice beer.

Inputs by Anindya and Saumitra Dutta Gupta

Photo Credits: Aditya Dutta Gupta

1: Steamed momo

Regional Cuisines      North-Eastern India


Q:      Meghalaya is a tourist hot spot.  What are the delicacies there?

A:    The staple food is rice.  People here like spicy preparations of meat and fish.  Cows, goats, pigs, ducks, and fowl are reared for meat.  Momos - dumplings, steamed or fried, stuffed with vegetable or meat is served with soup and a hot chilli sauce.  Momos are popular, and so are Jadoh, Kikpu, Tung-toh, and pickled bamboo shoots.  Fermented rice beer is a popular drink.

Inputs by Anindya and Saumitra Dutta Gupta

Photo Credits: Anindya Dutta Gupta

1: A pork dish under preparation

Regional Cuisines      North-Eastern India


Q:     Food habits in Manipur are substantially different, I believe?

A:   Interestingly, the majority in Manipur are Meiteis, and they are staunch Vaishnavites.  So their food preparations should have Vaishnavite influence.  They love spicy food making it very hot by using king chillies.  They eat rice, fish, chicken. beef and a variety of vegetables.

Q:     Could you describe a few of the Manipuri dishes?

A:    Ngari is fermented fish.  Eromba is thick gravy made of boiled vegetables and dried fish, with lots of red chillies to make it hot.  Singju can be called a mixed salad comprising of finely chopped cabbage, onions, lotus stem, and off course red chillies. (especially during religious ceremonies). Singju is prepared without Ngari, otherwise different vegetables can be used)  Morok means chilli, and Metpa is mashed.  So Morok Metpa is a mashed paste of dried fish and chillies (plus coriander leaves).  But Chamthong is a stew made out of seasonal vegetables and also with fish, with onions, garlic and ginger for taste. They have dal and Uthi is a form of dal. Then there is Chagempomba which is made of broken rice, Santhongba which is beef curry, Okthongba which is pork curry and Yenthongba which is chicken curry. Bamboo shoots (Soibum) are very popular and can be cooked with fish and Eromba.  Chicken is more popular than beef or pork.

Inputs by Alvite Ningthoujam.

Alvite is an M.Phil. student at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Photo Credits: Anindya Dutta Gupta

1: Manipuri food

2: The North East Dhaba at JNU

Regional Cuisines   North-Eastern India



Q:     Finally we have Tripura with a large Bengali population?

A:   The original inhabitants of Tripura are called 'Tripuri', comprising of tribes like Tipra, Reang, Jamatia, Noatia, and Uchoi.  The Tripuris are non-vegetarian.

Q:      Any idea of Tripuri food?

A:    A major dish is the Chakhwi - a thick curry of bamboo shoots, pork, green papaya, etc and eaten with rice.  Berma is a spice made from dried fish, and is popularly used to prepare most dishes.  Beans are called Kosoi, and Kosoi Bwtwi is beans cooked with onions, green chilli, and spiced with Berma.  The traditional cuisine is called Mui Borok.  And Maisa, Mami, and Guriya are all different rice varieties.

Inputs by Anindya and Saumitra Dutta Gupta.













Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 January 2012 10:47
Comments (7)
7 Saturday, 21 January 2012 13:22
Hi Jyoti,

I have removed the photos that you claim Raj Das had picked from your website.


6 Wednesday, 11 January 2012 20:13
Hi Jyoti,

Thank you for confirming. I will be removing the concerned photos as soon as possible. The only thing is that we are facing some technical issues so it might take some time. I will also be informing Raj Das, who contributed these photos to my website.

And it would be very interesting if you could also contribute your valuable insights on Assamese food in this section.

5 Friday, 06 January 2012 16:07
Jyoti Das
Dear Anindya and Saumitra,

I would request you to remove the photos that you have picked up from my website These photos are the property of this site.

4 Saturday, 31 December 2011 14:11
Anindya, a not-for-business website, believes in a strict no-no to plagiarism. Due credits are given as and wherever required, and there are ample evidence in the website articles to support this. I rely on trust, and value the views and experiences of our readers and contributors, and request them to contribute, and write to us.

When you feel that there are definite instances of plagiarism, please report immediately with specific details to so that I can take necessary corrective action at the earliest.
3 Friday, 30 December 2011 20:55
Hi Ani,

Nice website. Wish you the best.
Unfortunately, It seems that you are unaware of the sourcing of contents for your site. I can see seven pictures on this page itself, which if I may put it, are whacked from my website: Which calls for an explanation.

Request you to revert back with your stand.

Jyoti Das.
2 Thursday, 24 November 2011 16:11
i would like to know the similaritiesbetween assamese and malyasian cusines.
1 Friday, 26 November 2010 18:24
Hmmm... yummy!!!! Appetizing... nice to see some of the authentic eastern food.
I really love it. Something really missing here. Different dishes of beef which is the most favourite of the eastern states will just make perfect. Please do update it by adding the. Going to cook beef for dinner....... yum yum

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