HYDERABAD: The cuisines from the North Eastern parts of the country are fairly underrated, and this is mainly due to lack of familiarity. However, the food from the seven sister states is both diverse and interesting. The cuisine of Nagaland is slightly more known among these, outlets in Delhi and Bangalore had been popularizing the food there for many years.
Naga food is quite distinct from cuisines of other parts of India. The Naga recipes use very little oil or spices. Meat (pork, beef, poultry, fish, and others) is the most popular ingredient in many of the dishes but vegetables like bamboo shoots are used in abundance too. Among the minimal spices used, the fiery Raja Chilli adds a zing to the dishes, while salt, ginger, and garlic are some other things added while cooking. Smoking and fermentation are common techniques used in Naga kitchens imparting a lot of taste to the meat and the pickles, apart from preserving them. Akhuni, a fermented and flavourful soybean cake is often added to the meat and even eaten as a paste or pickle standalone with rice.
Hyderabad had a small Naga canteen which used to cater to students from the North-East at Hyderabad Central University. However, this closed down a few years back. Filling this gap, about six months ago, Zing’s North East Kitchen opened its doors in Gachibowli. Anung, who is the owner of the restaurant opposite SLN Terminus, was previously working at Marriott Hotels for around a decade. Originally from Manipur, the urge to present the cuisines from North Eastern states in Hyderabad prompted him to open this place which apart from Naga cuisine offers Manipuri dishes too.
The smoked pork dishes seem to be the most popular among the food Zing’s North East Kitchen offers. The dish comes in three variants – with bamboo shoot, with Naga chillies or with Akhuni. The Naga Pork Chops Curry is another dish of note. Also, among the appetizers, the tender Sticky Pork Rib is quite in demand. The slow-cooked meat is prepared to perfection and is a must-try here. Among the sides the Manipuri Eromba made from mashed potatoes, chillies and fish paste is delicious.
The beef dishes have quite a few variations too. The Beef Curry with Naga Wild Pepper is served with rice. For lovers of offals, Beef Tripe or intestine is an item to go for. Other Naga recipes of note are Naga Duck Curry as well as Steamed Fish. The restaurant brings major ingredients like Akhuni and Raja Chillies all the way from Nagaland to make the food as authentic as possible.
Anung is happy with the response his outlet has received in the last few months. Zing’s North East Kitchen plans to bring more depth in Naga food on the new menu which they are announcing shortly. Will look forward to more dishes Anishi and dry fish pickles to make their appearance in that.
Sabyasachi is a food enthusiast and blogs at www.foodaholix.in