Naga Food and Local Cuisine
inaugurated on the 1st of December, 1963 as the 16th State of the
Indian Union, the state of Nagaland is a land of myths and legends that
have passed down generations. This picturesque hilly state is inhabited
by 16 principal tribes and sub-tribes who can be distinguished by the
vibrant costumes and jewelry that they wear. Often referred to as the
Switzerland of the East, Nagaland is blessed with a wonderful climate
throughout the year, beckoning umpteen tourists to seek solace in this
tranquil hideout away from the madding crowds.
It goes without
saying that a place that is so beautiful and colorful is ought to have a
hugely interesting variety in terms of its food and local cuisines. The
staple food of the Naga tribes is rice. The tribal people are extremely
fond of chillies. Nagaland is known for a having a large variety of
chillies. The ginger that is used in cooking Naga cuisines is very spicy
and has a completely different aroma than the common ginger. For cooking
meat, garlic and ginger leaves are also used. The kind of seasoning
used in the culinary preparations varies from one tribe to another. You
would also find a wide array of leaves of exotic plants and herbs in the
Naga dishes. The quintessential Naga delicacies cooked by authentic
Naga cooks are served in buffet.
The Nagas try the meats of
almost a huge variety of animals and birds, some being pork, chicken,
beef, fish, cats, dog, birds, crabs, spiders and many more. Elephant
meat is considered to be a great delicacy among the Naga tribes.
Sometimes the tribal people smoke dry the elephant and preserve it for a
long time to be consumed later. Interestingly enough, the Nagas
maintain strict restraint from consuming certain animal meats on the
grounds of certain taboos. The Naga women are not permitted to consume
monkeys. Pregnant women are never allowed to eat the meat of bear since
bear is considered to be a stupid animal. The Nagas also do not consume
the meat of leopard and tiger. Apart from a huge variety of food, the
Nagas are fond of drinks. The most common local drink of the Naga tribes
is the rice beer, which is again of three categories, namely Zutho,
Ruhi, and Dzutse. ‘Koat pitha’ is a typical Naga sweet dish made with
rice flour, bananas and jaggery.
Different Naga tribes have their
own cooking style and varieties; but again they interchange their
recipes as well. Rice, accompanied with meat and vegetables is the
regular diet of the Nagas. Along with meat curries, pulses or ‘daal’ is
consumed. A typical Naga platter would consist of a meat item, a dish or
two containing boiled vegetables, rice, as already mentioned before as
the staple and a chutney which they call Tathu. Fish rice, bamboo shoot
fry and roasted duck are some of the common food items. A very common
dish of the Nagas is the fermented bamboo shoot with pork and fish.
of the unique local cuisines of Nagaland are discussed below. You
could try these out and feel the real taste of Nagaland!
Smoked Pork Stew
conventional Naga kitchen is located not inside but outside the
dwelling. The most essential culinary component, that is, fire is kept
outside. The Nagas have the practice of slowly drying pieces of meats
and smoking those high above the flame. The meats need to go through
this process for a couple of weeks before they are ready to be consumed.
Smoked pork stew is prepared by using the long-dried pork meat. The
most interesting part of this food item is that the meats are crispy
externally but intensely smoked inside. It tastes as good as a plain
smoked meat. This pork stew is a great accompaniment with rice.
Pork with dried bamboo shoots
bamboo shoots are commonly used in the Naga cuisines. One such favorite
preparation of the Nagas is the dried bamboo shoots cooked with pork.
It is an absolutely thrilling experience to taste this delicious
concoction of bamboo shoots and pork. Huge chunks of pork meat are used
in the preparation. The fatty cubes of the meats cooked with dried
bamboo shoots would make you yearn for more! Copious amount of chilies
is used in making this dish. The exotic aroma of the food comes from
the bamboo shoot and the flavor that is produced is simply
Bitter melon is one of the favorites of the Nagas. They like to boil the
bitter melons and incorporate interesting seasonings before serving it.
Bamboo Steamed Fish
interesting cuisine is the bamboo steamed fish where the fish is
stuffed into a bamboo’s hollow tube along with some spices. Then this
bamboo tube is placed in the ash and thereby cooked. Once the cooking is
done, the Nagas empty the bamboo tubes and take out the cooked stuff
from inside. The flavor of bamboo makes the dish unique. Here too,
chilies are used for making the dish tastier.
The very name of this food implies a healthy overtone. This is an
interesting and healthy combination of a variety of vegetables such as
peas, beans, tomatoes, cabbage and many more vegetables which are boiled
and served with unique Naga natural ingredients and seasonings. This
mixture has a wonderful aroma and is a great garnish for rice. The Nagas
tend to have this with chili sauces and other kinds of strong curries
to make it taste hot and spicy.
Naga Ghost Chilli Sauce
hottest chili in the world, the Naga ghost chilli is the chief
ingredient of this preparation. The dish is so hot that it might inflict
a sharp pain inside the mouth of some who taste it for the first time.
However, the flavor of the dish is superb. Along with chillies, lots of
garlic, onions and herbs are used.
already mentioned earlier, the Nagas like to have almost all kinds of
animals and they hardly waste any body part of the animals that they
eat. Pork is a key ingredient of their diet and they do not waste even
the intestines of a pig. In fact, the internal organs of a pig are
considered to be among the precious possessions because of the taste and
flavor. The dish that they prepare with the intestines is mainly a
roast which tastes sumptuous.
which is also termed as Dzacie aakhone or axone is the most commonly
used fermented edible item of Nagaland. Akhuni is prepared throughout
the year from soya beans. Although all the tribes of Nagaland prepare
Akhuni, but the Sema tribe of southern Nagaland mostly prepares it.
After being picked and cleaned, soya beans are boiled. After draining
the excess water, the soyabeans are made to ferment for three to four
days in summer and a week in winter. Akhuni is used in a large variety
of Naga dishes.
Naga Crab Cakes
cakes are among the conventional Naga dishes which are made of crab
meat and many other ingredients which include mayonnaise, eggs, milk,
yellow onions and the unique seasonings used by the different tribes.
Sometimes some other ingredients like the green or red peppers and pink
radishes are added after which the cake is further baked or grilled
before being served.
After discussing the traditional food and
the local cuisines of Nagaland, it needs to be mentioned that with the
Nagas, you hardly have any choice of pure vegetarian dishes. If you are a
non-vegetarian, Naga cuisines could be some of the best treats for you!