What Are Mejenga Leaves And How Can You Use Them?

If you’re familiar with Assamese or Naga cuisines, you may also be familiar with mejenga leaves, which is a particular kind of green that grows widely across northeastern India. These sharp leaves with red veins are celebrated for their unique and complex flavour profile. Mejenga leaves possess a distinctly herbaceous and fresh taste, which is similar to a blend of mint and basil. 

This freshness brings a vibrant quality to dishes, enhancing their overall appeal; one of the most popular ways to use this leaf is to blend them in red meat curries so they can tone down the intensity of the spices. 

The minty notes in the leaves contribute a cooling sensation that is refreshing and not overpowering, creating a balanced and subtle minty flavour. Alongside this, the leaves have a sweet undertone reminiscent of basil which adds a pleasant depth to their flavour profile.

In case you didn’t know mejenga leaves are essentially a variety of Sichuan pepper leaves. The bushes of mejenga grow wild throughout northeast India, which is why these leaves are used widely in northeast Indian curries and stews, specifically for pork curries. Another unique aspect of Mejenga leaves is their slight anise or liquorice-like flavour, which introduces a faintly spicy and aromatic quality. 

This element enriches the leaves' taste, adding complexity and intrigue. Additionally, there are earthy and nutty undertones that provide a grounding effect to their fresh and aromatic characteristics. This earthiness is subtle yet significant, contributing to the leaves' complexity and making them stand out in culinary applications.

When used in stir-fries or sautéed dishes, the leaves release their aromatic oils, infusing the dish with their herbaceous and minty flavours. The slight anise hint adds an intriguing layer of taste, making even simple vegetable stir-fries or meat dishes more complex and flavorful. 

In fritters, Mejenga leaves contribute both texture and flavour, with their minty freshness and earthy notes balancing the richness of the batter and intensifying through the frying process.

In chutneys and pastes, Mejenga leaves provide a robust flavour foundation. Their herbaceousness pairs well with spices and other ingredients, creating a condiment that is both refreshing and complex. Adding Mejenga leaves to soups and stews imparts a fresh and slightly sweet herbal note, brightening the overall flavour and complementing the broths and stocks and even dry and smoked meats.