Food is indeed a deep subject and with wanton opinions flying about, it has become imperative to learn more about different cuisines from different parts of the world. Food is not just something we consume for our survival, it is a culture in itself and probably one of the most compelling reasons to explore new places. Travel for food, shall we?
More than 16 tribes in one state and what does that tell you? More varieties in the kitchen than one can handle, right? This is the world of Naga cuisine. Ingredients are the same all over the world but how and with what they are paired is what that matters the most. When we talk about Naga cuisine we come across all kinds of meat (both farm and bushmeat), fermented food items, fish, mollusks, crustaceans, arachnids, vegetables, the list goes on.
Pork with bamboo shoot, or we might as well call it the state mascot, is no stranger to most people. The craze for "Naga food" is sometimes unbelievable, which brings me to this question, "What makes this dish so popular?" The answer lies in the ingredients and the art of combining certain herbs and spices with meat and bamboo shoot. No oil. This bamboo shoot that I speak of, is easy to make--chop some bamboo shoot, stuff them in an air-tight container and wait four to five days, wait longer if you want it more sour.
Be it bamboo shoot, fish or soya beans, fermented food plays a crucial part in Naga cuisine. These items don't belong to any particular tribe but just like there are culture stereotypes, there are food stereotypes as well. For instance, fermented bamboo shoot or locally known as baastenga is consumed and loved by all but is known to be the favourite dish of the Lotha Nagas; fermented soya beans or axoni has Sumi tribe written all over it; anishi or the dried taro leaves and stem is something Ao Nagas can't do without and; Konyaks have undying love for taro (colocasia esculenta). And the rest are supposed to eat whatever is not earmarked? I didn't think so too. All Nagas eat everything and with gusto.
Anishi is a wonderful thing that ever came out of taro plant. Scientifically known as colocasia esculenta, almost every part of the plant is edible and the Nagas make great use of that. The Ao Nagas may be the known genius behind the drying and processing of the leaves and the stem to make anishi but Zeliangrong Nagas too has a variant of anishi as one the main components in their food. And so do the Konyaks... [ Tip: Anishi paired with or dried meat is a great dish]