Northeast India, a region known for its breathtaking landscapes and diverse cultures, also offers a treasure trove of culinary delights. While meat-based dishes are prominent in the cuisine of this region, vegetarians need not worry, as there are plenty of mouthwatering options to savour as well. Here is a look at five must-try vegetarian delicacies from Northeast India that showcase the region's rich culinary heritage.
Kelli chana tantalises the palate with its bold and refreshing flavours, uniting tender, boiled chickpeas with fried bamboo shoots. In making kelli chana, chickpeas undergo an overnight soak followed by gentle boiling to achieve a soft, luscious texture. Meanwhile, bamboo shoots are sliced and fried to crispiness. These fried bamboo shoots are combined with chopped onions, garlic, ginger, green chillies, tomatoes, and boiled black gram.
Chak Hao Kheer (Manipur)
Chakh hao kheer, a beloved dessert hailing from Manipur, showcases the distinctive flavours of its native ingredient, black sticky rice. To craft this delectable treat, one must start by cleansing and soaking the chakh hao rice for several hours or overnight. Once soaked, the rice is drained and then simmered in a pot with water until it reaches a tender consistency. Subsequently, milk is introduced into the mix, and the concoction is gently cooked over low heat until it thickens into a pudding-like texture. The infusion of sugar and cardamom adds a delightful sweetness and aromatic essence to the kheer, which is finally left to cool before serving.
Zan, a cherished culinary gem from Nagaland, serves as a breakfast or snack and holds a revered spot in local cuisine. This hearty dish resembles a thick, porridge-like creation, expertly crafted from millet flour and various vegetables. Crafting zan commences with millet flour and water amalgamating, resulting in a dense batter. This concoction takes centre stage over a low flame, with stirring to thwart adherence to the pot's bottom. As the batter matures, an ensemble of vegetables, including finely chopped onions, tomatoes, and chilli, enters. These vegetables are seasoned generously with salt, melding their flavours with the base. The dish continues its transformation with a simmer, allowing the vegetables to reach their peak of succulence.
Aloo Pitaka (Assam)
Aloo Pitika, a popular vegetarian dish from northeastern India, specifically Assam, is known for its simplicity and deliciousness. It's made by mixing boiled potatoes with mustard oil, chopped onions, green chillies, and coriander leaves. "Pitika" in Assamese means "mashed," capturing the dish's essence. Usually served as a side dish with rice, dal, and other curries, Aloo Pitika also holds significance during Assam's Bihu festival, marking the harvest season. This versatile dish can be customised; some add boiled eggs or fried fish for extra flavour and protein.
Singju is a salad from Manipur, celebrated for its health benefits and taste. This dish comprises an assortment of vegetables and herbs, finely diced and blended, then enhanced with a zesty dressing crafted from mustard oil, lemon juice, salt, and aromatic spices. The primary ingredients typically encompass cabbage, carrot, cucumber, tomato, onion, and fiery chilli peppers, further enriched with coriander, mint, and parsley. Singju may even feature the fruity accents of pineapple or orange in some versions. The result is a crisp, refreshing dish with a blend of tanginess and spiciness, making it an ideal choice for a complementary side dish. Beyond its taste, Singju is a nutritional powerhouse, replete with essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre sourced from the fresh vegetables and herbs it incorporates.