Food of Meghalaya just like the state’s majestic scenic beauty manages to win our hearts and satisfies our palate. The population of the state comprises of the three major tribes – Khasi, Jaintia and Garo and each has several dishes unique to them.
(Food of Meghalaya)
Rice and meat, especially pork, form an integral part of the staple diet of the people of Meghalaya. Dry fish is also essential part of the diet and consumed almost every day in most households. Chicken and beef are also consumed, though in a lesser manner than pork.
A lot of wild herbs also go into the preparation of most dishes in Meghalaya. Soyabean, mushroom, sesame seeds and bamboo shoot are also used in generous proportions in most dishes. While the Garos consume a lot of green vegetables, yam and sodium bicarbonate, the Jaintias are known to use a generous quantity of sesame in their cuisine.
One specialty about the cuisine of Meghalaya and most of the Northeastern states is that most of the food is fermented or smoked, which lends a unique and delicious flavor to them.
“In Meghalaya meat and rice dishes form an important part of our staple diet. Many people in the state are involved in rearing and breeding of pigs, which is why pork is abundantly available here compared to beef. We also consume chicken and dry fish. Apart from being abundant sources of protein, people here also consume meat as it helps them to beat the cold,” said Bhogtporam Mawroh, associate of the Research and Knowledge Management and a resident of Shillong in Meghalaya.
People in the state do not consume milk much as people here are not involved in cattle farming. Red tea is consumed by one and all.
“In Khasi cuisine meat is smoked and fermented mainly to preserve it and retain its original taste. Then it is used to make stir fries and stews. A special form of chutney called tungtap is also made from dry fish that goes well with several forms of dishes,” said Mawroh.
“Jadoh is a special Khasi dish that is savored by one and all. It is made from rice cooked with pork, chicken, mushroom or bamboo shoot. Most dishes are rice based like pudoh, pupharo and pumaloi. However, in each of these dishes the rice is first pounded and then cooked in different manner,” said Anasper Diengdoh, secretary of the Khweng village in Meghalaya’s Ri Bhoi district.
Forests in Meghalaya are abundant in varied forms of wild herbs and wild fruits. These herbs find their way into local cuisine, thereby giving a distinct rich flavor to varied dishes. The other Indian spices are not used in this form cuisine. The dishes are cooked in mustard oil. While some wild plants and herbs are eaten raw, some are cooked to make curries.
“We mostly use onions, green chillies, turmeric, ginger and wild herbs in preparing various dishes. The other Indian spices are not used. We collect the wild herbs from the local forests and when used, they render a distinct flavor to the dishes. We also cook the dry fish with different vegetables,” said Diengdoh.
People should relish the lip-smacking dishes of Meghalaya not just for its sumptuous quality, but also because they are packed with numerous health benefits.
“The wild herbs and whole spices that go into making our dishes are rich in vitamins and minerals that boost the human body and aid in digestion. The meat that we consume also provide us with ample of protein,” Diengdoh said.
Now let’s have a look at some of the popular dishes of Meghalaya:
Jadoh – Ja means rice and doh means meat. So Jadoh is rice cooked with meat, especially pork. Traditionally the rice was soaked in pork blood and then cooked with the meat. However, now the rice is cooked in pork fat. Many people also make the dish using chicken, mushroom and bamboo shoots.
Tungtap – A special chutney made from small dried fish that goes as a side dish with many main dishes. It is cooked almost every day in most households of the state.
Dohklieh – A special salad made with pork brain as the main dressing.
Dohneiiong – A dish where pork is cooked with sesame seeds.
Pudoh – The dish is cooked by pounding the rice and then boiling it with pork and water.
Pupharo – A rice dish made from pounded local plain rice.
There are also rice dishes like Pumaloi and Pukhlien that are also made from pounded rice, but cooked in different manners.
The people in Meghalaya also cook a special chicken curry that is cooked with caramelized onions. They also consume a lot of stews.
Meghalayan cuisine is equally popular for certain sweet dishes, among which Phendieng cake holds a special place. Phendieng means roots. The roots of certain plants are grinded and then mixed with milk and sugar and cooked to form a sweet cake.
The tribes of Meghalaya also have their special drink called Yiadum. The drink is made from fermented rice. This drink is consumed on special occasions.