Thinking about Meghalaya brings a wide smile and endless memories. The green mountains, splashing waterfalls and beautiful cloud formations will make you believe that you are in paradise. When you think of Meghalaya, you also think of the cute cafes of Shillong. But if you want to eat something authentic and local you need to dig deep.
Just to freshen up your geography lessons, Meghalaya comprises of three major districts – Khasi hills, Garo hills and Jaintia hills. The culture varies and so does the food. And even though the main ingredients are the same (mostly pork and rice), the preparation is what makes the dishes unique to a region.
Khasi cuisine is very minimalistic. The meat is smoked and the fish is fermented. In fact fermentation seems to be a popular procedure for rice and liquor too. They barely use any spices except onions, ginger, sesame seeds paste, turmeric, and some mustard oil. The cuisine favours the meat lovers. But the vegetarians will find some local dishes too. Dal and some stir fried vegetables is a staple here. Here are some of the famous dishes from Khasi cuisine:
Jadoh is to Meghalaya what Biryani is to Hyderabad. It is the soul of Khasi cuisine. You will find a bowl of Jadoh everywhere you go. Jadoh translates to: Ja- rice, doh – meat. Traditionally Jadoh is red rice, cooked with generous amounts of pork meat. These days, it is also cooked with chicken or fish. An array of spices are added which provide for the unique and rich colour of the dish. This flavoursome dish will make your taste buds dance with joy. If you visit one of the villages in Meghalaya during festivals, you might be offered the more authentic version – Jadoh cooked in pork blood. Are you adventurous enough to try it?
For all of the people who want to eat something healthy, we have got a Khasi twist to the salad. Doh Khlieh is a delicious salad made out of minced pork, onions and chillies. The dish is very minimalistic and is a must try for someone who loves pork. You will see few places creating a fusion dish by adding beans, tomatoes, carrots and lemons and put in that Mexican touch. Again, if you want to explore a wilder side, traditional doh-khilieh is cooked as a curry of pig brains and eaten with bread. I tell you, Meghalaya will keep surprising you.
I know I know, there’s a lot of Doh (pork) in here, but like I said pork is considered a meat for all seasons in Khasi cuisine. Dohneiiong is a gravy based pork dish cooked in black sesame seed paste. The yummy curry goes well with Jadoh or plain white rice.
This simple dish is prepared from fermented soya beans, boiled and chopped pork, black sesame, ginger, onion and other spices. All the ingredients are fried and sauted together, and the delicious mixture is left simmering for some time to deepen the flavor and taste. You will find this dish as a part of everyday meal of the peasant community of Meghalaya. So go on, talk to the locals and have some lip-smacking Tungrymbai .
There are not many options for vegetarians in Khasi culture, but we have to find that vegetarian Biryani (okay all the meat lovers – don’t come after me saying there’s nothing like vegetarian biryani). Ja stem is made from rice and turmeric powder. The turmeric imparts the pretty yellow colour to the dish. It is also cooked with black sesame seed to further enhance the flavor.
Pumaloi literally means rice in the form of powder. Khasi cuisine loves rice as much as pork and prepares it in many different forms and varieties. And Pumaloi is one such creation. The powdered rice is steamed and cooked in a pot called khiew ranei. These beautiful rice cakes are stuffed with raw grated coconut and make for an ideal meal at any time. If you are like me and want a sanck every few hours, you know you have found your favourite.
How can we talk about food and not include the dessert. The simplest of dessert, Pukhlein is a traditional Khasi snack and contains only 2 ingredients – rice and jaggery. This deep fried snack can be paired with some tea and a nice gossip session with your close ones.
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