Eastern India comprises of the diverse states of West Bengal, Orissa, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura and Sikkim. It offers a wide variety of cuisine that is in sharp contrast to the rest of the country. With a strong geographical influence from China and Mongolia, Eastern Indian cuisine can be broadly classified into three schools: Bengali, Assamese and North Eastern and Odiya.
Owing to its climate, this corner of the subcontinent produces a lot of rice and proximity to the coastal region means it has a deep affinity towards fish. Two of the most essential ingredients that lend Eastern Indian cuisine its unique flavour are mustard (seed, paste and oil) and a special medley of five spices known as Paanch Phoron namely cumin seeds, nigella seeds, black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and fennel seeds.
Sweets are a predominant part of the meal and no meal is complete without them.
So, here is a list of 10 essential dishes from Eastern India:
Shukto – Trust Bengal for a perfect beginning to your meal. This magical mix of vegetables will make any vegan fall in love with Bengal. The veggie wonders used are red potato, bitter gourd, plantain, brinjal, drumsticks, bori (hardened lentil dumpling), all of which are cooked in a creamy gravy.
2. Chingri Maacher Malaikari – You can’t imagine a Bong menu without fish, right? Although, technically it is not a fish, however Chingri (prawn) still finds the highest place in the Bong palate. The combination of prawns and a milky coconuty gravy is too good to resist, I am sure!
1. Rosogulla – As they say, “All’s well that ends well”. And what better way to end than a tinge of sweetness. Trust Bengal when it comes to sweets. Rosogulla is a household name in Bengal. These little dumplings of chenna (cottage cheese) and semolina dipped in sugar syrup are so famous that they are exported abroad as well.
2. Dahi Vada-Aloo Dum – Odiya people know how to bring a twist in the taste. This sumptuous street snack does just that and brings a best of both worlds. While the dahi vada (flour dumplings dipped in yoghurt) cools your taste buds, the hot alur dum (deep fried potato) and ghugni (yellow peas with gravy) leaves you with a tinge of spice.
3. Pakhala Bhata – With the sweltering summers around, nothing like a cooling dish to beat the heat. Try the traditional Odiya dish: fermented rice (rice, curd, cucumber, cumin seeds and mint leaves) served with roasted vegetables like bori, potato, papad or fried fish. It is considered to be the perfect antidote to heat stroke.
1. Khar – Another vegan delicacy from Assam, this is a delectable dish made of pulpy vegetables such as papaya, pulses, cucumber, gourds and the main ingredient, khar, made by distilling water through ashes of banana peels.
2. Smoked pork – With the Nagas’ love for pork and beef, even chicken and mutton take a backseat. Thus Naga style smoked pork is worth a try. Cooked with dried soya beans, the typical Raja Mirchi and served with dried yam leaves or bamboo shoot, it is one of the most iconic dishes from the region.
3. Iromba – One of the most unique dishes from the remote corners of India, Iromba will surprise your taste buds with its tanginess. Prepared from fermented fish along with boiled or steamed vegetables with a plethora of red chillies, Irumba has a strong, pungent taste.
1. Bai – One of the regulars in Mizo cuisine, Bai is traditionally a mixture of vegetables, salt, soda, fermented pig fat and water cooked in the same pot. Though it usually made with pork sauce, it can also be turned into a vegetarian dish with butter. It is spiced with local herbs.
2. Tungtap – Pickles and chutney are common to any cuisine. So is it for Meghalayan cuisine. Tungtap is a tangy chutney hailing from this little state of North East India. A dry fish paste where the fish is burnt and mixed with onion, green chilli, and red chilies, it is commonly had with Jadoh, a rice and meat speciality.
Which are your favourite dishes from Eastern India, Wravellers?