Exploring The Tribal Foods Of India
Image Credit: Red Ant chutney/ Pic- https://www.hindustantimes.com/

The tribals make for an indispensable part of Indian culture. These indigenous tribes have a their own very distinctive personal identity as by having a language, religion, festivals, cuisine, dance of their own. These tribes see a mix of both patriarchal and matriarchal society. It’s difficult to say the numbers of tribes that India sees, but they surely are stretched from East to West and to all the coast of the country. 

One of the most important facets of the tribals are cuisine. Their cuisine can be easily termed as heritage cuisine. From the Santhals to the Great Andamanese Tribes to Bhils Tribes to the Garo to Khasi to Angami Tribes each sees a much distinct flavours that they are super proud of. Not found is any regular restaurants, these dishes have been safeguarded by the tribes since ages.  

Natural and nutritious, whether cultivated or not, the tribes have always been fond of these since ages. Interestingly most tribal food barely see the use of spice or very sparingly used. Simplicity of the dishes, using traditional cooking methods happen to the speciality of tribal cuisine. Be it the Dhuska (deep-fried snack made of powdered rice), Red Ant Chapda Chutney, Thapdi Roti, Khapra Roti with Mutton, these dishes that almost sound exotic happen to be everyday dishes for them. From wild fruits, roots and tube, the tribals had mostly being living by collecting foods from across the forest area. The people, culture and cuisine of the tribals have always been different from those of the mainland people. For them the Seasonal local favourites include indigenous wild plants. 

The UN General Assembly might have declared 2022 as the International Year of Millets, but our indigenous tribals have been indulging in them for years. There is a preference of different types of millets that these tribals grow and dishes are Ragi Pakodas and Madwa rotis from Jharkhand, and Ragi Idlis and Dosas from Tamil Nadu are slowly making its mark.  Just like the Khadia's who are not farmers but nomadic hunter gatherers, from time immemorial they have been known for collecting the finest wild honey form the jungles of Odisha. Moving to the tribes of Jharkhand they boast about their Maize, millets, scores of saag, bamboo shoots and horse gram as a part of their daily meal. While the North-East sees abundance of rice cultivation, Meghalaya takes pride in their Jadoh that is made with pig liver or the Onla Wangkhari from Assam that sees rice flour and chicken stew is a Boho staple and not to miss the Dung Po or steamed rice from Arunachal Pradesh. 

Just like North East harps in their rice production and dishes, so does the hills  swear by the lentils and wheat in their local/ tribal cuisine. Be it the millet roti or maahni or the teliya maach, these dishes are mostly served in pattal bowl or donna or even kansa thali. Not to miss that states of Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra too have many interesting tribal cuisines. From cornmeal paniya roti that is baked in an open pit-style oven and savoured with some red ants chutney to steamed bafle whole wheat dumplings and not miss the variety of mushrooms, tribal food needs to get it’s due importance.