Among the amalgamation of the many states that make up India, Arunachal Pradesh boasts of a food culture that is more healthy and less fussy. Like most north eastern regions, the food here largely tends to be indigenous and exotic. Be it traditional spices or local ingredients, every aspect about food in Arunachal Pradesh is remarkably unique. Here are some really intriguing food delicacies from Arunachal Pradesh that you must totally not miss out on at least once in your lifetime-
The prime component of a typical Arunachali breakfast are a sort of unique pancake they call khura. Made with buckwheat flour and the local Tibetan beer Chang, these gluten free pancakes turn out delightfully soft to make for the perfect wholesome first meal of the day. A fermented food preparation, khuras perhaps are one of the healthiest of indulgences in the breakfast ambit. With minimal ingredients, these clay oven baked khuras are accompanied by another Arunachali speciality, the Po Cha.
Translating literally as butter tea and hailing from the region of Tibet, Po Cha however is also a staple in India’s northeastern land of the rising sun. Unique in being salty, po cha is one of the most flavourful of tea varieties around. Piping hot tea made with yak butter, milk, salt, and boiling water sounds like a wonderful combination and to relish this heavily loaded brew in the harsh climate of the mountainous region definitely counts among one of the blessings of life. Specially with the khuras, po chas work equally well as a tea or soup for a refreshing and filling breakfast.
Rice being the staple food in Arunachal Pradesh, any main meal is incomplete without it. But even in its rice preparation, Arunachal is a distinctive gastronomic delight. Dung Po and Kholam are the two most common types of rice preparation in the state.
The Dung Po variety of rice cooking is done by steaming in two brass utensils. The rice is wrapped in leaves and placed in a bottomless pan that goes inside the larger pan filled with water. The rice carries the flavour and aroma of the leaf in which the cooking and also the serving takes place.
The Kholam variant is a more prevalent way of rice preparation. Similar to the Assamese style of sunga bhaat, the cooking is done inside bamboo tubes. The rice stuffed bamboo hollow is allowed to cook in fire coal, leaving it with a distinct smoky flavour. Both dung po and kholam goes best with the traditional fish curry. Whoever knew rice could be so interesting!
Karzi Egg Dal Tadka
A combo dish of Arunachal happens to be the indigenous sounding karzi paired with the much universal lentiled eggs preparation. Basically a rice- curry meal, both the essential components stem of their distinctive methods of preparation.
Karzi or kharzi is almost like fried rice. Cooked rice spiced with red chilli paste and fermented cheese, karzi is flavoured with spring onions and garlic for a preparation that indeed is quite spicy. Perfectly complementing its hot quotient is the egg dal tadka, making for a meal quite appetising and delectable.
A delicacy in many north eastern states, bamboo shoots occupy an important place in the culinary references of Arunachal Pradesh as well. As a side dish in itself or as the ingredient in many a dishes, bamboo shoots find prominence in the cuisine of the state.
One popular method of preparation is sauteing tender bamboo tender bamboo shoots with fenugreek seed and red chilli. A crispy side dish, the bamboo shoots are marinated in baking soda and ground spices before they are stir fried on low flame. Fiery and crunchy, Arunachalis relish this basic bamboo shot preparation with just about every meal.
Because no Indian meal is ever complete without a pickle, Arunachalis’ bamboo shoot love also translates in on with this pickled preparation Pika Pila. Pork fat also finds its way into this hot pickle that also makes use of spices and king chillies for that extra zing to every rice meal.
Again a Tibetan native that which has found its delicious way into the mountains of Arunachal, thukpa is a soupy noodle dish. Particularly among the monpas of the state, this dish of boiled noodles, meat and veggies passes on essentially as lunch or dinner. But while Thukpas generally speak of locally made rice noodles delivering comfort with its steamy bowl, there also can be alternatives like the Putang Thukpa where the noodles are made from buckwheat flour. Arunachalis sure love their buckwheat as much as their bamboo shoots!
Yet another universal fast food that is an Arunachal Pradesh staple are momos. Mostly with the Monpa and Sherdukpa tribes, these stuffed and steamed dumplings are an absolute favorite. While momos can be of many types, the Arunachali specialty comes stuffed with minced pork and mustard leaves or other green vegetables, and is served with chilli paste.
Another Arunachali dish that is basically an extension of other similar recipes is wungwut ngam. This exotic preparation makes use of rice flour to cook chicken with herbs and spices for a dish that would be unlike any chicken dish you would partake of. Flavorful and texture wise unique, wungwut ngam goes particularly well with bamboo rice variety ‘kholam’.
Among the many chutneys that serve to spice up any dish even further, the Arunachali pick of Pehak is refreshingly unique. Made with fermented soya bean and king chili, this local favorite is best relished with steamed rice for a hearty, simple meal.
A soup made with fish- if that sounds inviting enough to indulge your taste buds, then the Arunachali pasa is the thing for you. A thin soup, fragrantly delicious in its many encompassments like ginger, garlic, green chilli, minced meat paste and other indigenous ingredients like khumpatt leaves, phoi hom et al makes it a really outwordly slurp. Also popular as the warrior’s strength soup, this greenish tinge bowl is a delight of the winter days.
A traditional dish with a very distinctive method of preparation, ngatok is a fish based food. Fish marinated in indigenous spices is wrapped in leaves and placed between stones and then covered with charcoal. The resultant delicacy is one that has that irresistible smoky flavour to it.
One of the most simplistic of preparations but a fusion of flavours nonetheless is the rice dish bresi. Prepared especially during festivals and celebrations, bresi basically is sweet rice, Rice is first cooked and then butter is poured over it making for a really flavorful combination already. The dish finally gets a unique seasoning with raisins and almonds and some sugar for a grand delicacy that can gladden up even the most gloomy of souls. Sweet Heaven!
For the Galos of Arunachal Pradesh, a kind of khichdi type dish amin serves as a delicacy. Rice cakes and little pieces of chicken are stirred heavily in boiled water until fully mixed. Just a dash of salt and pepper is all it takes to get the distinctive taste of this unique dish that generally makes for a serving affair after the main course.
Almost all north eastern states have their localised version of rice beer. Apong is the traditional rice beer of Arunachal Pradesh that occupies a pivotal position in its food customs. A dried, smoked, fermented and filtered rice concoction, apong is a light beer. It is generally drunk out of a bamboo tube and is basically a way of life in the hills.
Paanch Phoron Tarkari
A specialty of Arunachal Pradesh though not exactly an exclusively regional offering, Paanch Phoron Tarkari is a mixed vegetable dish. Made with pumpkin, potato and eggplant, the dish is tempered with five spices which lend it its ubiquitous name. Quite a delight to chomp up some rice with this lipsmacking and palate pleasing side dish on the plate.
In its relatively rare sweet Arunachali taste, Khapse tends to be among the many lesser popular sweets of India. Made by combining flour, eggs, butter and sugar, Khapse is a deep fried pastry like biscuit. Just the right amount of crunchy, khapses serve as the perfect tea time accompaniment. Enticingly shaped by women typically out of a dough kneaded by men, these festival specific sweet treats turn out deliciously divine.