From flavoring our favorite curries to curing several ailments, spices have hold a special place in our lives and is a must in every Indian kitchen.
Known as the land of spices India is known to have a major share in the global spice market. And the green belt of India, the Northeastern states holds a distinctive position owing to its unique, quality spices.
Most of these spices of northeast India grows in pristine weather conditions, rich fertile soils, sometimes even found growing in the wild dense forest areas.
These northeastern spices are falvorsome to add in food and are widely used in home remedies too.
But do you know which spices grow here? Let’s find out.
5 Unique Spices of Northeast India
Here’s the list of 5 spices of Northeast India. You will see a note on how each of these spices of northeast India – how the locals are using them and how they’ve come in handy across generations in treating minor body disorders.
1. Bhut Jolokia (Raja Mircha)
Also known as the Naga Chilli, this notorious chilli is widely cultivated in the states of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur. It is known to hold a Guninness Book Record as one of the Planet’s hottest chilli with over a million scoville heat unit (SHU). About 4,694,074SHU to be specific. This fiery chilli is used widely to make chutneys, sauces and one of the tastiest delicacies of the northeastern cusines. As hot as it is, it will make your mouth water, craving for more.
In Naga and Manipuri households, Bhut Jolokia is a must with every meal. In Nagaland (and in Assam) they even have a Bhut Jolokia eating competition every year, during festivals like the Hornbill Festival, where contestants consume raw chillies by the dozen!
How is Bhut Jolokia used?
Yes, you can cook with it! It’s adds flavor, extreme heat and makes your meal just scrumptious. Here’s a local recipe you can try.
Recipe: Exotic Naga Pork Dish
Ingredinets required: 1 kgs sliced & diced pork meat, 2 pieces of Bhut Jolokia chilli, 5 red chillies, 2 tsps of minced ginger, 2 tbsps of bamboo shoot, 1 tsp of salt
- First start by cooking the pork meat in 500ml of water
- Add salt to it
- Add the rinsed bamboo shoot
- Add the Bhut Jolokia and the red chillies together. Cook for 40mins. Stir from time to time.
- Then, add minced ginger. Cook for 5 mins.
- Serve it hot. Best paired with warm rice.
Note: Extreme care must be taken if you’re handling Bhut Jolokia. You can use gloves and must wash your hands thoroughly.
2. Winged Prickly Ash (Jaiur)
This is one taste that you might never forget. Don’t believe it. Try cruching 1 and your mouth will feel a sensation unlike no other. Eating winged prickly ash raw will leave your tongue with a tingling sensation and even numb for a while.
And yes it is this numbness that opens up your taste bud helping you experience the enhanced flavors of other ingredients. So, adding it to dishes will give it a strong flavor and mildly pungent aroma. It is one spice loved by locals of Meghalaya.
Studies suggest the percieved medicinal benefits of winged prickly ash include treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, toothache and gastro problems. Local folks use it as one of the traditional medicines. Its raw fruits are eaten as is during meals to stimulate the appetite.
How is winged pickly ash used?
Here’s a quick local recipe that you can try with this exotic spice.
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Recipe: Exotic Tungtap Chutney from Meghalaya
Ingredinets used: 2 medium sized tungtap (fermented dried fish), 1 medium sized onions, 5 red chillies, 2 Bhut Jolokia, 1 medium sized tomato, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/3 tsp winged-prickly-ash
- Start by grating the onions
- You can either char or boil the tomato and remove the seed.
- Chop the chillies
- Cahar the fish using a pair of tongs or a thin frying pan
- Mash or grind all the ingredinets togather and make a paste. Do not over grind.
- Serve it fresh. Best paired with boiled potatoes.
3. Ing Makhir Ginger
Indigenous to Meghalaya, this ginger is potent and known best for it’s medicinal properties among the locals. It is a common ingredient for traditional home remedies that the locals prepare to heal from ailments.
Although widely used for its medicinal prowness, it is also 1 important ingredient for a famous local dish – Tungrymbai, a popular fermented soyabean chutney.
How is Ing Makhir Ginger used?
Here’s a local recipe that you can try with Ing Makhir ginger.
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Recipe: Tungrymbai Chutney from Meghalaya
Ingredients: 1 tbsps of grated onion, 1/2 tbsps of grated gralic, 3 tbsps of black sesame seed (paste), 1 tsp turmeric, 2 tbsps of diced pork, 5 chilli, 3 tbsps of ing makhir ginger, 1 tbsps of oil, 2 tsp of salt
- Start by mashing the Tungrymbai fermented soya bean paste
- Then heat the pan with oil. Add onion and stir fry it until translucent
- You can now add the garlic, turmeric, black sesame paste, thai chilli paste. Keep frying it for 5 minutes
- Then add the Tungrymbai, add the salt
- Add 3 cups of 250ml water and let it simmer
- Add the Ing Makhir slices in the end for aroma and flavor
- Serve it warm. Best paired with Ja-doh
4. Nei Lieh (Perilla Seed)
Locally found in Meghalaya, this spice called Nei lieh which means white sesame in Khasi has delious nutty flavor. Commonly known as perilla seed, it is rich in dietery fiber, minerals, nutrients, omega-3 fatty acid etc.
Perilla seed is roasted and ground to bring out it’s flavor then mixed with chillies, salt and added as condiments for seasoning. It’s a blend aroma and nutty, crunchy taste and will add balance to the dish.
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How is Nei Lieh (perilla seed) used?
Here’s a local recipe that you can try with Nei lieh.
Recipe: Muli Khleh (Nei lieh Radish Salad)
Ingredients: 4 tbsps of Nei lieh, 2 chopped onions, 3 chopped chillies, 3 tbsps of lemon juice, 1 finely chopped radish, salt to taste
- First lightly roast Nei-lieh for 3 mins in low heat. Once they let out the nutty aroma, turn off the heat. Set it aside until cool.
- Now take the roated perilla and pound it using a mortar and pestle or use a grinder.
- Take all the rest of the ingredients – radish, onion, chilli, powdered nei lieh and mix them together.
- Add lemon juice and salt to taste. Toss the ingredients and evenly mix it. Serve it fresh.
Notes: Squeeze out the water from the chopped radish, take care while roating the Nei lieh seed. Do not over roast
5. Lakadong Turmeric
One of the most special spice found only in Meghalaya, Lakadong turmeric is a highly sought after spice.
So what’s so special about Lakadong turmeric?
Lakadong turmeric is one of many turmetic varieties found in India. It is indigenous to Meghalaya and only grows in a small region of Jaintia Hills. It is widely known for it’s high curcumin content of up to 7 to 12%. Compared to other turmeric varieties whose curcumin is 1 to 3 % , making Lakadong turmeric a far more superior turmeric.
What is curcumin?
Curcumin is an active ingredient found in turmeric and give turmeric its medicinal properties and its bright yellow color. So, the higher the curcumin content the more effective it will be. This makes Lakadong turmeric a highly sought after for its high curcumin and premium quality.
How is Lakadong Turmeric used?
Here’s a local recipe that you can try with Lakadong Turmeric.
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Recipe: Ja-stem with Lakadong Turmeric from Meghalaya
Ingredients: 2 cups of rice, 1 tbsps oil, 1 tsp onion paste, 1 tsp garlic paste, 1 tsp ginger paste, 2 tsp Lakadong turmeric, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 2 cups water, 1/2 tsp salt
- Start by heating a cooking pot. Heat until warm.
- Add the onion and saute until translucent
- Next add garlic paste, ginger paste and saute for another 3 mins
- Add the Lakadong turmeric and black pepper
- Now add the rice and stir and let it mix with the rest of the ingredients. Do this for 5 mins
- Pour the water. Cover the pan and cook it with medium heat.
- Continue to cook for 15 to 20 mins until water is fully absorbed
- Check if the rice is soft. If not add more water and continue to cook.
- Once done. Serve warm. Best served with Tungrymbai.
There you have it these are some of the 5 unique spices of Northeast India and how we locals have incorportaed them in our cultural food.
Do you want to find out more spices of Northeast India and how their flavors have enhanced our local cuisines. Stay tuned as we list another 5 more spices in our next blog.