Simplicity can sometimes be the most direct route to delicious. You don’t always need a roster of ingredients the length of the Nile to justify the worth or quality of a dish. Few Indian cultures understand this phenomenon as well as those of the Northeast. Meghalaya in particular is a state of varied customs that differ between the Garo, Khasi and Jaintia hill systems and the tribes that belong to each region. But all have one core similarity which is a respect for local ingredients and a love for letting them shine through. 

Another person that understands and champions this approach to food is Chef Oindrila Bala - social media superstar and best known for her spectacular run on Masterchef India Season 6. Though she came away from the show with the title of Dessert Queen for her impressive baking abilities, when it comes to her personal life, she prefers exploring the nuances of regional cuisines. Chef Bala finds herself particularly drawn to northeastern fare, “I feel that it’s something that’s a mystery. There aren’t many books or people who know about it so it gives rise to curiosity for me.”

Also Read: North-East Gastronomy: Unravelling The Popular Culinary Practices of Meghalaya

The dish she’s sharing with us today is Dohneiiong, a famous pork and sesame dish of Khasi culture and made in their signature minimalist style. “I love learning about northeastern food,” adds Chef Bala, “and this is one that I thought I’d try because it seemed simple, straightforward, but delicious and it turned out really, really yummy!” And therein lies the secret to Khasi flavours, that basic ingredients don’t translate to basic flavours. The interplay of earthy sesame with the smoky spice of dry red chillies leaves is just as thrilling from the first bite to the last. 

Image Credits: Chef Oindrila Bala/Instagram & the.fernweh.radhuni/Instagram

 

Ingredients

  • 500 gm pork belly
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic
  • 3 medium onions
  • 5 green chillies
  • 6-8 dry red chillis (Byadagi chilli)
  • ½ cup black sesame seeds 
  • ¼ cup mustard oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder

Method

  • Pressure cook the pork for 2 whistles with salt, one diced onion, 5-6 cloves of garlic and one of the green chillies before setting the drained pork aside.
  • Be sure to save the water you’ve cooked the pork in for later.
  • Dry roast the red chillis and black sesame seeds for 10-12 minutes.
  • Let it cool and grind it into a paste. Add a little water if needed.
  • Take 2 of the onions and blend them into an onion paste.
  • Heat the mustard oil and add 3-4 slit chillis, garlic paste and the onion paste you have just made.
  • Saute until it comes together before adding in your pork pieces.
  • Let it simmer on medium heat until the pork begins to brown. 
  • At this stage, you can add a little more salt if needed, but use it sparingly since we’ll be adding the pork stock from earlier which was already salted.
  • After the pork is well-browned on all sides, add in the turmeric powder and the sesame-chilli paste from earlier.
  • Mix it to combine and let it simmer for 5 minutes to absorb the flavours before adding the pork water one spoon at a time. 
  • Let the dish cook at low heat for around 20 minutes, adding more of the pork water until it reaches the desired consistency.