North-East Gastronomy: Unravelling The Popular Culinary Practices of Meghalaya
Image Credit: Source: EatAbhi/Facebook

The North East region of our country has a lot in store to offer to everyone. From the lush green landscapes to the delicious food, a trip to North-East is most certainly all things fulfilling. Keeping the scenic beauty apart, let's talk about the cuisine. Deeply rooted in culture, North Eastern cuisine is full of delicacies of almost all flavour profiles. The region has seven of India’s most topographically fascinating states which offer distinct dishes made and even more fascinating cooking styles. On today’s culinary trip to the North East, we are stopping at Meghalaya to discover some of the interesting culinary practices and stories still prevalent in the state.

The cuisine is mainly based on the local produce of the region along with fish and meat, especially pork. Rice is a staple dish in traditional Meghalayan cuisine. From savoury delicacies to desserts, most dishes are made with rice. A sizeable number of savoury dishes are made with rice and pork with an assortment of local veggies. Besides this, the Meghalayan tradition of giving Kwai (a local betel nut) to the visitors is one of the most fascinating culinary practices I learnt about recentlt. Click here to know the lore behind this practice.

The Meghalayan cuisine is an amalgam of three tribal cuisines- Garo, Khasi and Jaintia. While the ingredients remain almost the same, the methods of preparation differ with the tribes. The use of indigenous soda in most dishes is widely seen in the Garo tribal cuisine. Be it the delicious and intricate Nakham Kappa or any pork dish, the use of soda to tenderize meat or add flavours is common. The Khasi dishes are often devoid of a lot of spices and oil. The prime ingredients are pork, fermented soybeans and rice. Boiled vegetables on the side are a must in Jianitia cuisine. Plus, cooking pork with black sesame seeds remains exclusive to the Jaintia tribe.

Even the auspicious occasions and ceremonies are celebrated with an assortment of authentic Meghalayan dishes. It is a traditional custom during Meghalayan weddings that the groom’s family visits the bride’s house with foods like rice beer, betel nuts and betel leaves make the groom promise that he will never desert the girl. Also, after a year of the death of any family member, a religious ceremony- Depsnem is performed. During the ceremony, a rich assortment of food is prepared with rice, beer, betel nuts, betel and lime which are then served to the ancestors and the family members for their well-being.

The Meghalayan cuisine is deeply rooted in culture and tradition that is ever so fascinating. So, the next time you visit the state, don’t forget to talk to the locals about the traditional culinary practices. I am sure they’ll leave you gobsmacked for a good reason.