I must admit that when it comes to food from the north east, my knowledge is not that great. Assam is the only state where I’ve been to but I was a toddler then and I hardly remember anything. What I did know about north east cuisine before going to ITC Sonar last Friday was that the people make amazing pork dishes and I was really looking forward to trying some. And also, to know more about north east cuisine in general.
ITC has taken up an initiative to showcase India’s wealth of unique, undiscovered, royal and forgotten cuisines. Last month, ITC Sonar had organised the Sheherwali food festival which brought the royal cuisine of Murshidabad to Kolkata. This month, is the turn of the Jewels of the North East, a week long festival to showcase food from Arunachal, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and some from Sikkim as well. The festival started on the 18th and they plan to highlight dishes from one particular state every day. It is part of the Eden Pavilion dinner buffet and last Friday, I tasted some amazing vegetarian and non-vegetarian food from Nagaland and Assam.
The chef who hails from Nagaland explained what Naga food is all about. It is simple, relies on fresh herbs and vegetables, not too many ingredients and is not spicy. Country chicken, good quality pork and beef, smoky flavors and lots of chilies are the key ingredients of their cuisine.
There was Pitika, mashed potatos with coriander leaves and mustard oil and being the good old Bengali that I am, could not resist having that with some sticky rice. I also added a bit of Dhokaanja, fluffy lentil dumplings in a tomato-coriander curry and Mogu Mah Dal, green moong dal with cloves and lemon juice. Potatos, dal, dumplings and sticky rice – comfort food at its best! I skipped the Sikkimese Thukpa and the Rosep Aon, stir-fried vegetables for this.
The pork was brilliant! Chef made Awoshi Kipki Ngo Axone, smoked pork with fermented soya bean and that was definitely the highlight of my meal. The smoky flavor of the meat and the slight pungency of the fermented soya bean combined to give it a unique taste. I had to have two helpings of this. There was also a Tenderloin cooked in Black Sesame, a Roasted Perilla Chicken Curry and a lovely light Mahorbortenga, fish cooked in a sour curry. All of them were extremely good!
Nagas don’t really eat a lot of sweet so we had Assamese Peetha for dessert, similar to the Bengali Pithe. The chef did make a rice flour cake for us with a thick layer of icing which was quite unique.
Jewels of the North East will be on at Eden Pavilion, ITC Sonar till 27th September as part of the dinner buffet (Rs 1800). Do check it out if you want to try some unique and tasty dishes from the seven sister states.
I was invited by ITC Sonar to dine at Eden Pavilion