The North East Spice Basket

3 Comments

The Meghalaya Spice Basket | Zizira

What comes to our mind when someone says Indian food? Spicy! Right?
Do you wonder where do the spices come from? Why our ancestors incorporated them into our diet?

Most of us don’t. After all, the aroma and flavor of these spices and herbs shadow the benefits they carry with them.

North East India proudly grows these flavored blessings and shares them with the rest of the world. If you still haven’t tasted the zesty Indian food cooked with spices of North-East India, you sure are missing out on some fantastic food flavors.

North East India is known for the mesmerizing green pastures and breath-taking views. To add more to this charm, the people here are kind and modest. The fertile, undefiled soil in this region is the birthplace of various spices.

Let us get acquainted with some spices and herbs and understand their benefits.

1. Bay leaf – Tej Patta

The Indian Bay Leaf (Cinnamomum Tamala, Lauraceae) or “tej patta” is a spice with a sweet and pleasant aroma somewhat similar to clove and cinnamon. Romans called it Malobathrum and use it for perfumery and culinary use.

In the local Khasi language, it is called ‘sla tyrpad’. Bay leaf is a common spice among the Northeast people. It is used to season their daily food – rice, dal, and delicious curries.

Bay leaf goes with the spicy Chicken Biryani as well as with the Indian sweet dishes like kheer. It makes everything more salivating- the Dal tadka or the Masala Chai perfect for the rainy and cold evenings.

Apart from this culinary awesomeness, This Super spice has medicinal value too. It is proven to help control diabetes, bad cholesterol, indigestion, and even the common cold!

How to use Bay leaf?

  • Turn the dry bay leaves into a powder and add in your tea to make it more refreshing.
  • Fry a Bay leaf in oil before you use the same oil for a Dal tadka.
  • Add a bay leaf while cooking rice to make it more palatable.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Bharat Saini (@bharat_saini) on

2. Long Pepper

This rare variety of pepper is different from black pepper with its sweet taste. It is also more pungent. Pepper long grows well in the limestone soil and in heavy rainfall areas where the relative humidity is high.

It is used as a spice in a variety of Indian dishes as well as in pickles and preserves. Long pepper is hot and sweet at the same time, goes well with spicy dishes like a cheese fondue mix or wine sauces.

In Ayurveda, Long pepper or Pippali is an essential ingredient in making medicines for cough, sour throat, diabetes, liver problems, indigestion, fever, muscular pain, etc.

This spice is also very popular among the locals of Meghalaya for ages, mainly for cooking and for medicinal purposes. It is mixed with ginger, turmeric, and honey to treat coal, coughs and sore throat.

How to use long pepper?

  • Use a long pepper powder as a dry rub to your meat before cooking it.
  • Season your meat or salads with a long pepper powder.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Hyonjee | two plates to share (@twoplatestoshare) on

 

  • Add it to your tea to keep yourself warm in the cold weather.

  • It can be an alternative to black pepper in any food preparation.

    3. Rocambole Garlic

    What it lacks in the beauty and shelf-life, is made up by its earthy musky flavor. This rich-flavored variety of garlic has purple or brownish splotches with thinner skin and is the favorite of many garlic connoisseurs.

    Rocambole requires a cold climate which is why it grows well in North-East India.

    The Khasi people, of Meghalaya, make delicious chutney called ‘tungymbai' by cooking fermented beans with crushed rocambole garlic, ing makhir ginger, and a few other spices. This is paired with rice, bread, roti. Here, in Meghalaya, it is usually paired with ‘ja doh' or rice flavored with a mix of spices and meat.

     

    View this post on Instagram

     

    A post shared by Tiffin (@thetiffinclub) on

    Their primary drawback is that they have the shortest shelf life of 5-6 months. But this problem can be solved by dehydrating the rocambole garlic and storing them as powder. They can also be preserved by making a rocambole garlic pickle to add a fiery flavored element in your meals.

    Apart from adding zesty flavors to your meals, Garlic is also beneficial for health. It is believed to be a natural antibiotic, and it is believed to treat indigestion, bad cholesterol, allergies, and increase immunity.

    How to use Rocambole garlic?

    • Dehydrate the garlic and grind to make fine powder to preserve it for a long time and add it to the food preparations.

     

    View this post on Instagram

     

    A post shared by A Foodies' Diary (@geeta_4u) on

    • Preserve this tasty garlic by turning it into a pickle and enjoy it for years.

    4. Bird’s eye chili

    In Northeast India, a meal is incomplete without chilly and meat.

     

    View this post on Instagram

     

    A post shared by foodlove (@lovefood586) on

    When you visit Shillong, you will see a lot of sun-soaked chili pickles among other pickles line up on the street shops. This tells you how much the locals enjoy them!

     

    View this post on Instagram

     

    A post shared by The Tezzy Files. com (@thetezzyfiles) on

    Bird’s Eye Dry chili also grows in plenty in Northeast India. It is called ‘sohmynken khnai’ in the local Khasi language, the literal translation is ‘mouse chili’, because of the small size :)

    It is also known as Thai pepper. It falls in the list of world’s hottest chilies with the hotness of 50,000 to 100,000 heat units.

    Some say the Bird’s Eye Chilli gets this name from the fact that chili seeds look similar to the eyes of a bird. It is also said that it is called Bird’s eye chili because birds widely spread the chili seeds across different regions. It grows in North East India and in some parts of Kerala where it is known as Kanthari Mulaka.

    This chili is hot and pungent. It uplifts the delicacy of a dish by adding a certain zing, color, and flavor to it. Bird’s eye chili is high in Capsaicin which creates its primary taste.

    Capsaicin is a chemical compound that helps to heal stomach ulcers and indigestion. It helps in controlling flatulence. Bird’s eye chili also keeps blood pressure and cholesterol level in check. There are traditional remedies for arthritis pain which use a bird’s eye chili.

    Eating this chili increases the metabolism rate and hence helps in weight-loss. It is also used to treat bruises and swelling by some people.

    How to use this Chilli?

    • Bird’s eye chili powder can be used for any curry-based dishes and give them a hot spicy punch.
    • Make your buttermilk more interesting by adding finely chopped chili pieces to it.
    • North-East style pickle –Preserve the chilies in Mustard oil and experience the taste of pickle getting better each day for years.
    • Be a daredevil and try them raw with a mouthful of rice or any other bland element to experience the flavor fireworks in your mouth.

    Try out this chicken salad recipe with birds eye chili.

    5. Allium hookeri Chives

    Allium Hookeri is a bulbous herb which is used as an alternative to a spring onion. It is also known as Hooker Chives or Maroi napakpi in Manipur and ‘Ja-ut' in Khasi. Almost every Manipuri kitchen garden has Hooker chives for garnishing the food.

    Allium hookeri has sulfur compounds that result in the onion-like flavor. It is considered to be a healthy micro-nutrient that helps in reducing blood cholesterol levels and improve the digestive and blood circulation system. Fresh chives and the fleshy fibrous roots have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, and they are used in ailments for fever and swelling.

    Here is a popular Meghalaya meat salad, mincing pork pieces, alium chives, seasoned with chilly flakes and salt.

    How to use Allium Hookeri?

    • You can consume the flowers and leaves raw by using them to garnish your salads.
    • Cook the leaves as a vegetable with your rice.
    • Enhance the taste and nutrition of your omelet by adding Hooker chives to it.
    • Try a Manipuri delicacy “Paaknam” which is a mixture of dry fish, Hooker chives and chili baked in turmeric or banana leaf.
    • Use the Hooker chives in the Manipuri dishes named Eromba, Kongsoi and Pakora.

    These spices will definitely enhance the taste of your food, and bring more flavor to your life. Take our word for it!




    3 Responses

    Miramon Suting
    Miramon Suting

    July 08, 2020

    That’s true ?

    Mrs Sridevi srinathhl
    Mrs Sridevi srinathhl

    July 08, 2020

    Hi, I watched tea making video,in that she is adding honey while boiling, some where I read that it should be added last, not in boiling temperature. Thanks

    Gurvinder
    Gurvinder

    July 08, 2020

    Each and every presentation of MEGHALAYA is attractive

    Leave a comment

    Comments will be approved before showing up.