While restaurants serving Naga food have opened outside of Nagaland, the cuisine is still hard to find outside of traditional homes.
Naga cuisine is characterised by strong flavours and appetising aromas. Nagaland is home to 16 major tribes, each of whom have their own culinary practices. This results in a large variety of dishes that are eaten across the state. While restaurants serving Naga food have opened outside of Nagaland, the cuisine is still hard to find outside of traditional homes. Here are eight Naga dishes that you must try:
‘Akini’ refers to perilla seeds, a kind of herb from the mint family, and ‘chokibo’ translates to snails. Akini chokibo is an expensive and very popular Naga dish. Some Naga recipes use snail meat in addition to pork, but this dish uses only snail meat. Sometimes, pork lard and axone (akhuni) are added to the preparation.
Made with colocasia, shredded cabbage leaves, mustard leaves and French beans, Hinkejvu is a simple staple. To make the dish, all the vegetables are boiled with some salt. This brings out the aromas of the greens. Households in Nagaland prepare hinkejvu often, sometimes even daily.
Smoked pork in akhuni
Akhuni is a sort of paste made with fermented soybeans that is used in a lot of Naga recipes. Nagaland also loves its pork and this dish is a combination of the meat and the beloved paste. With a bitter, smoky flavour, this dish is a Naga classic. Akhuni, which gives the dish its flavour, is also used in the preparation of other stews and curries.
Awushi kulho is a chicken stew that doesn’t use any oil. The Ao tribes of Nagaland have been credited with the creation of this dish. It uses seasonal greens and minimal spices, which makes it very healthy. The main ingredients used to make awushi kulho are chicken, water and ginger. It is best enjoyed steaming hot.
Akibiye hails from the mountains of Nagaland, and is a favourite with the Sema community. It uses colocasia roots and mustard leaves, and is entirely vegetarian, unlike most other Naga dishes. Very little salt and spices are used, giving the dish a bland flavour. It is cooked to attain a thick consistency and served with boiled rice.
A staple of traditional Ao cuisine, amrusu is made with chicken, ground rice and bamboo shoots. It is nutritious and filling, and considered comfort food. The consistency of the dish is porridge-like and it can be made with dried fish or prawns as well. To give it flavour, ginger, garlic and green chillies are added.
Fish in bamboo
A common ingredient in Naga recipes, bamboo is also used as a vessel for cooking fish. The fish is filled inside a bamboo tube, spices are added to it, and it is smoked over a fire. This process ensures that the fish absorbs all the flavours and is cooked to perfection. Members of the Ao community often eat this dish.
A kind of thick soup made with rice, vegetables and meat, galho can be compared to khichdi. It also uses smoked pork and chunks of pork fat along with seasonal green vegetables, and is the ideal dish for anyone looking to familiarise themselves with Naga cuisine. Galho may be topped with ginger and garlic.