Every culture is identified by the way its people lead their lives, and food is an integral part of any culture. One of the highlights for travellers in India, especially the ones who travel primarily for their love of good food, is getting to taste indigenous cuisine. The capital of Jharkhand, Ranchi, too has its share of tribal cuisine offerings. And leading the way is Ajam Emba, known for authentic indigenous cuisine from the tribal hinterlands of the state.
Helmed by Aruna Tirkey, a rural development professional, the restaurant is possibly the best and one of the very few places in the capital city of Jharkhand that serves great tribal food. In the Kudukh language, spoken by the Oraon tribe, 'ajam emba' stands for 'great taste'. Tirkey started the restaurant with an aim to revive and revitalise adivasi cuisine as an inseparable part of Jharkhand’s culture.Tastefully done sohrai paintings and traditional musical instruments welcome patrons at Tirkey’s slow food restaurant. Mud thatched walls embellished with attractive cane and bamboo artefacts add to the rustic charm of the eatery. Apart from providing an incredible experience to visitors, Ajam Emba is also on a mission to promote indigenous entrepreneurs and benefit Jharkhand’s indigenous organic farmers.
Tirkey hopes to bring innovation to indigenous cuisine for wider societal adoption. She has not only started a new dining trend in Ranchi, but has also been empowering women from the state’s rural areas by training them in culinary arts.
Take a look at the menu of Ajam Emba and you would see that there’s an entire range of forgotten ingredients that represents the real taste of the tribal hinterland of the state. Some of the most popular dishes at Ajam Emba are wild rice kheer, ragi momos, country chicken, pitha and dumbu (rice balls made of jaggery).
The food at Ajam Emba is both sumptuous and nutritious. Offerings like sanai flower bharta, beng saag chutney and mashed elephant foot yam are some of the most fascinating and nutritious offerings at the restaurant.
Beng saag is great for cardiac health and blood pressure. It could also be used in the treatment of jaundice. While futkal saag is good for teeth, bones and blood pressure, Kudhrum’s red chutney is rich in vitamin A and C. The sanai flowers used in chakod saag can even help in fighting cancer and tuberculosis.Tirkey also works as a food specialist with the Bhoomika Safe Food Campaign. A passionate connoisseur of tribal cuisine, Tirkey believes that the advent of fast food culture has taken a toll on the health of indigenous communities, specially the younger generations. Her work as a rural development officer introduced her to the growing disintegration of indigenous food and culture especially in urban settings and amongst tribal youth.
She thinks that basic indigenous food needs to evolve in order to increase its wider uptake in our changing society without losing its key properties. Ajam Emba does just that. Tirkey, who grew up in a tribal household, says that she was exposed to a rich culinary legacy as a child, with dishes based on locally available ingredients. They were both healthy and delicious. Over the years, she says, such recipes have been lost from the local kitchens.
View this post on Instagram
She says she sources the raw materials for her dishes directly from local farmer markets or weekly haats. She makes weekly visits to these markets and stocks up on native varieties of grains, including brown rice and finger millet.
She also teaches rural women how to cook authentic dishes such as dhuska, getu fish curry, khapra roti and ghunghi tien, and conducts such classes for tourists, locals of Ranchi, and organic farmers. Tirkey plans to train at least a hundred women on the revival of traditional cuisine of the state.
A visit to Ajam Emba is an enriching experience. You’ll not only get introduced to the authentic food of Jharkhand but would also soak in the village-like vibes here. The food is served on traditional leaf plates to keep an authentic touch. We highly recommend dining at this amazing place.
Where: Ajam Emba, Behind Dr. Rash Kujur Clinic, Near Hotlips, Kanke Road, Jhirga Toli, Ranchi
Cost for two: Rs 400-500