"Shillong mein momos khayenge" (we'll eat momos in Shillong)
I definitely will eat momos (the less fancy cousin of dumplings) when in Shillong because there are momo sellers sitting in Laitumkhrah, Dhankheti, Nongthymai selling some of the best momos in the country (if i may) at a very cheap price and the taste is just something you have to experience. Whenever I visit the city, I take a walk, spot a momo seller and eat at the seller's stall. No fancy restaurant can beat the fun that comes with eating juicy tiny momos with tomato-chilli-garlic chutney (the runnier the better). But don't visit a place with a somewhat limited idea. Better, don't have any pre-conceived notions especially when it comes to a destination. When you do that, you tend to miss out on a lot of other things that are equally great or who knows, even better!
For example, alu muri. No restaurant will serve you this dish. That's because the dish is simply the best and the king of the street food in Shillong. Diced boiled potatoes, shredded raw papaya, a handful of puffed rice (muri), chopped onions and chillies, a dash of chaat masala and bind all of these with tamarind water and raw mustard oil. If alu tikki chaat is Delhi's lifeline, alu muri is Shillong's. Now, how many of you have not tasted this amazing and spicy street food when in Shillong? An insider tip: it is also equally great without the muri. The fun of eating alu muri can only be had on the streets of Shillong, not in restaurants. If you feel adventurous, ask the seller to make it more jhaal.
Enough of tongue-numbing heat, now let's move on to soh-phlang. Flemingia vestita, locally known as soh-phlang, is a tuber that you can eat raw. The local Khasi ladies sell these little white tubers, wrapped in a leaf (eco-friendly right) with a small amount of sesame chutney and some black salt. A friend of mine (obviously a hater) once described soh-phlang as eating a piece of chalk with sesame chutney. Absolutely not! The taste is somewhat neutral at first, but as you keep on eating with the chutney and salt, you'll start to get the real sweet taste of the tuber.
Now up for something sour? Calamus Erectus, locally known as soh-thri, will be available during the winter season. This tough looking tiny fruit comes from a palm species and are sour in taste. Soh-phie or Myrica esculenta, also known as box myrtle and bayberry is something you will find being sold on every corner you turn. This sour-sweet wild fruit is often sold in small packets, already mixed with rock salt and chilli flakes. Similarly sold is Docynia indica khasiana or sohphoh khasi. These roadside tangy bites are very good companions if you are planning a trip out of the city. These will knock off any feeling of nausea on those winding roads.
Visited Shillong and not had kwai? Is this even possible? The Khasi smile is a unique one and the uniqueness is brought to you by the humble yet omni-present kwai. Old ladies on the roadside (everywhere) sell these in tiny plastic packets. A packet will contain few leaves of paan (betel leaf), few chunks of ereca nut, chuna (lime) and pieces of ginger. The normal way to eat kwai is one betel leaf, a couple of pieces of ereca nut, a smear of lime and a piece of ginger--chew and spit out the juice. And now you have the oh-so-familiar smile.
And don't forget, always say "Khublei Shibun" (thank you).