Jadoh, Dhuska, Chapra: 8 Dishes From India's Tribal Communities
Image Credit: Chattisgarh's famous red ant chutney. Image via Facebook/Wild Food Diaries

INDIA is home to numerous indigenous tribes, each with their unique culinary heritage. These tribal dishes, often overshadowed by mainstream Indian cuisine, offer a delightful gastronomic experience that is both authentic and delectable. In this article, we will embark on a gastronomic journey through India's tribal cuisine and discover the flavours that have been cherished by generations.

1. Chaprah (Red Ant Chutney) - Chhattisgarh 

Chhattisgarh, a state in central India, is home to several tribes, including the Gond, Baiga, and Muria. One of their most famous dishes is Chaprah, a spicy chutney made from red ants and their eggs. Rich in protein and known for its medicinal properties, this unique dish is prepared by crushing the ants and their eggs with salt, chillies, and spices. The resulting chutney has a tangy, spicy flavour that is sure to tantalise your taste buds.

2. Smoked Pork with Axone - Nagaland

The Naga tribes of Northeast India are known for their love of meat, and one of their most popular dishes is smoked pork with Axone (fermented soybean). The pork is smoked over a wood fire, imparting a distinct smoky flavour to the meat. It is then cooked with Axone, which adds a pungent, umami taste to the dish. Served with steamed rice and a side of boiled vegetables, this dish is a must-try for meat lovers.

3. Patra Poda (Siali Leaf Wrapped Fish/Meat) - Odisha 

The tribes of Odisha, such as the Santal and Munda, have a unique way of cooking fish or any kind of meat using Siali leaves. Freshwater fish or wild chicken is marinated in a mixture of mustard paste, garlic, chillies, and turmeric, then wrapped in Siali leaves and roasted over an open flame. The leaves not only protect the fish/ meat from direct heat but also infuse it with a subtle, earthy flavour. Patra Poda, as it is called, is a delicious and healthy tribal dish that showcases the ingenuity of Odisha's tribal communities.

4. Chakki Ki Sabzi - Rajasthan

Hailing from the Bhil tribe of Rajasthan, Chakki Ki Sabzi is a delectable dish made from wheat flour dough. The dough is rolled into thin sheets, cut into small pieces, and then cooked in a spicy tomato-based gravy. This dish is typically served with bajra roti or rice and is a perfect example of the Bhil tribe's resourceful use of locally available ingredients.

5. Dhuska - Jharkhand

The Santhal and Oraon tribes of Jharkhand have a unique breakfast dish called Dhuska. Made from a batter of rice and urad dal (black gram), Dhuska is deep-fried until golden brown and crispy. It is typically served with a spicy potato curry or a tangy tomato chutney. This scrumptious dish is not only a staple in tribal households but has also gained popularity in urban areas, making it a must-try for anyone seeking an authentic taste of Jharkhand's tribal cuisine.

6. Jadoh - Meghalaya

The Khasi and Jaintia tribes of Meghalaya are known for their love of rice, and Jadoh is a prime example of their culinary expertise. This flavoursome rice dish is cooked with pork or chicken, and seasoned with local spices, ginger, and garlic. The meat is first sautéed with onions and spices, then cooked with rice, giving the dish a rich, aromatic flavour. Jadoh is often served with a side of spicy meat curry or chutney, making it a wholesome and satisfying meal.

7. Bamboo Rice Payasam - Kerala

The tribal communities of Kerala, such as the Kurumba and Kattunaika, have a unique dessert called Bamboo Rice Payasam. Made from bamboo rice (the seeds of the bamboo plant), this sweet dish is cooked with jaggery, coconut milk, and cardamom. The bamboo rice imparts a slightly nutty flavour to the payasam, making it a delightful treat for those with a sweet tooth. This dessert is not only delicious but also rich in nutrients, showcasing the resourcefulness of Kerala's tribal communities.

8. Patra - Gujarat

Patra, a popular dish from the Warli tribe of Gujarat, is made using colocasia leaves smeared with a spiced gram flour paste. The leaves are then rolled, steamed, and sliced into roundels before being shallow-fried. This dish is known for its unique combination of flavours and textures and is best enjoyed as a snack or a side dish. Patra showcases the Warli tribe's creativity in using locally available ingredients to create delectable dishes.

India's tribal dishes offer a fascinating insight into the culinary traditions of its indigenous communities. From the spicy red ant chutney of Chhattisgarh to the sweet bamboo rice payasam of Kerala, these dishes are a testament to the creativity and resourcefulness of India's tribal people.