VERSATILE – VIVID & VIBRANT
Arunachal Pradesh is one of the states of north-eastern India and just like all the other North-Eastern states, its tradition and culture are one of the main focuses of Indian tourism. Food forms an essential part of the culture of North East India, and is a traveler’s urge to understand the unknown, the food of Arunachal Pradesh is a topic that draws a lot of attention! The first thing you should know about Arunachal Pradesh food is that it differs from tribe to tribe. Arunachal Pradesh’s platter varies across the regions and the tribal groups. The styles, methods of cooking, ingredients used, and elements of these tribal preparations are countless and hence offer one a very diverse, vibrant, and dynamic menu. The staple food, like in most North-Eastern places, is rice, fish, meat, and vegetables.
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The dishes use very less spice, and they mostly use flavours from herbs, organic productions, and bamboo shoots. Different styles and varieties of Momos and Thukpa are popular and widespread in the area. Boiled rice cakes are also enjoyed widely as a snack all over Arunachal Pradesh. Pasa, a fish soup, while Noatak a fish curry are delicacies, almost essentials on a local platter. Chinese cuisine is also trendy and finds its distinct place in Arunachal Pradesh’s kitchen. Other than these, there is a rice beer called Apang found in the region.
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Arunachal Pradesh “The land of the rising sun” is one of the largest among North eastern states. They prefer to use different methods of cooking. This region is occupied by tribal people and they use fresh herbs and vegetables in their everyday cooking. They don’t use oil much or packed spice products and they prefer steaming, boiling, and smoked food methods of cooking. As you move toward the eastern side of Arunachal, the people are dependent on bamboo and other leafy vegetables which are strictly boiled. Fried food is not very popular as people like to eat either boiled or smoked food. As you move toward the town of Tawang and places closer to the country of Tibet, you’ll notice that dairy products are more in use. The people closest to the city are more dependent on normal day-to-day products.
A few popular ingredients and culinary basics of the cuisine:
Rice is a staple food in Arunachal Pradesh, and any other food is just a side dish. The most important and different thing about their rice is that in Arunachal, they prefer to cook their rice in the hollow bamboo over some hot coal to give it a different flavour than other types of rice.
Bamboo shoot is widely eaten throughout all the North Eastern States because of its delicate flavour and is a chief component of food in Arunachal Pradesh. The delicious bamboo shoots are used in the dishes of boiled vegetables, cooked meat, pickles, and chutneys.
Pika Pila is a famous type of pickle that is mostly made by the Apatani tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. It is a favourite accompaniment of food in Arunachal Pradesh. Pika Pila is a type of pickle that is made by using bamboo shoots and pork fat with a little addition of King Chilly. It is hot but not very spicy as to make you feel sick.
Lukter, another delicacy of the Arunachal Pradesh Food is the Lukter. Nothing complicated, Lukter is a combination of cooked dry meat and chili flakes from the King chilly or Bhut Jolokia. Like the norm goes with Arunachal, this too is just a side dish meant to be eaten with the rice.
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Pehak is also a side dish delicacy of Arunachal Pradesh Food. Pehak is a type of spicy chutney that is made by the use of fermented soya beans and chilli. The chilly obviously being the King chilly is the main ingredient in this dish as that’s what makes it hot and spicy. The taste of flavoured rice along with this spicy tangy mash makes for an awesome dish!
Apong-Rice Beer is just another name for rice beer and is one of the most important traditional drinks of Arunachal, and forms an important part of cuisine in Arunachal Pradesh. This beer is home-made, free of any chemicals, and is also light on the buds if you’re a light drinker and want a little light beer instead of the usual strong commercialized one.
Marua-Just like the Apong, Marua is also home-made alcohol that is very famous in Arunachal Pradesh cuisine. The only difference is that this alcoholic beverage is made of millet instead of rice. A common drink that Arunachalis enjoy drinking on occasions.
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Chura Sabji- I personally have not developed a taste for this dish yet but all the people I know absolutely love it. It is a kind of a curry made of fermented cheese made by either yak milk or cow’s milk and not to forget most important the flakes and a few pieces of the King chilly which makes it spicy but delicious.
Momos- The defining food of the northeast, stuffed dumplings known as momos are ubiquitous across Delhi and the northeast and are usually filled with various vegetables like cabbage, potato, carrotand in their vegetarian variants and chicken, mutton, and beef are used in their non-vegetarian counterparts. If you haven’t tried it yet please do so soon, they are among the most famous food of Arunachal Pradesh!
Mithun -Meat is the main delicacy of Arunachal Pradesh. Until now, I have not met a single Arunachali who doesn’t love meat be it Chicken, Mutton or pork. The people of Arunachal however, prefer not to have their meat fried, and it’s either boiled or smoked and the most common meat is that of an animal called ‘Mithun’ (Bos frontalis), a member of the cattle family found only in the North East.
Here are a few easy to make recipes from Arunachal Pradesh:
Recipe-1] KHARZI PULAO [cheesy- spring onion pulao]
Recipe-2] VEGETABLE THUKPA BOWL
Recipe- 3] OYING VEGETABLE STEW
Recipe- 4] ZAN – Finger Millet Porridge with Veggies
Recipe-5] BAMBOO SHOOT PICKLE
Recipe-6] KOAT PITHA
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About the author
Dr. Kaviraj Khialani – celebrity master chef - is a Mumbai-based author, writer, academician, food –health-lifestyle coach, mentor & consultant.
He is specialized in over 33 International Cuisines & has worked with brands like the Taj Group of Hotels, Kuwait Airways to name a few. Chef Kaviraj has been awarded several Global and National Awards for his outstanding performance and achievements in his chosen field. He has been featured on Star Plus and Colors Television on several food shows as well.