Going Local: 5 Intriguing Tribal Foods Of India

Delve into the sustainable tribal cuisines of the indigenous communities in India
Culturally rich tribal foods of India
Culturally rich tribal foods of IndiaShutterstock

India's indigenous communities boast centuries-old, inventive culinary legacies. From flower-based beverages to ant-infused chutneys vying for a GI tag, here's a look at five tribal foods in India. 

Demta Chutney

red weaver ants are used for making a sour and spicy chutney
red weaver ants are used for making a sour and spicy chutneyShutterstock

Demta chutney, also known as kai or chapra chutney, is a sour and spicy condiment composed of red weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina also known as "demta" by tribals) and red ant eggs. Tribes in Odisha, Jharkhand, and Chattisgarh enjoy this protein- and calcium-rich food. The chutney is prepared by grinding the weaver ants and ant eggs with spices likes garlic, ginger, chillies, and coriander. It is served as a kind of starter for daily meals. The chutney has properties that help treat jaundice, colds, and poor eyesight. Scientists have sought a Geographical Indications (GI) tag for the chutney. 

Marh Jhol

Marh jhol is a spicy and flavorful gruel made of starchy water from boiled rice mixed with whole red chillies, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and some native vegetables and greens like bathua saag (Chenopodium). Rich in carbs, this dish is taken along as nourishment when people go out to work in fields. They have it in pattal (sal leaves plates). 

Mahua Liquor

This colourless liquor is made using Mahua flowers
This colourless liquor is made using Mahua flowersShutterstock

Mahua is a traditional liquor made of mahua (Madhuca longifolia) flowers. It is clear, silky, and odourless in nature with rich in protein and iron. The fermented liquid improves digestion, soothes the stomach, acts on back pain, and intestinal troubles, and has antibacterial qualities. Mahua liquor is consumed in central, eastern, and parts of northern India.


Locally made rice beer or hariya
Locally made rice beer or hariyaWikimedia Commons

Hariya is prepared when there is a wedding or a special celebration in the community. Also called handia, it's a traditional healthy drink that helps people stay cool, and also prevents jaundice. Generally made with local rice, it is slow-cooked with water in an earthen pot and kept in the sun to dry. Ranu, or bakor, a fermentation starter, is mixed with rice and then transferred to an earthen pot, covered with leaves to arrest the fermentation's odour and left for three days to ferment.

Sandhana Pickle

Bamboo shoots are finely sliced and made into pickles
Bamboo shoots are finely sliced and made into picklesShutterstock

Sandhana (tender bamboo shoots), also called karil, are popular in Jharkhand. They provide the body with proteins, carbohydrates, fibre, and minerals. The bamboo shoots are cut into smaller pieces and then kept aside to ferment. Then it's mixed with onions, tomatoes, green chillies, and mustard oil, and kept in the sun, like any pickle.

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