Pickles have the unique power to add that extra zing to any meal. Everyone has a favorite that makes our mouths water. Selecting the best ingredients, cutting them up, drying them in the sun, mixing the most aromatic condiments and finally storing them up in myriad jars- pickle making is a story in motion.
Let’s look at some of the unique pickles from the Northeast that have gone missing from our plates over the years:
Ou Tenga(Elephant Apple): Native to Southeast Asia, this extremely tangy fruit is a favorite in my home state of Assam. Cutting this fruit requires some fair amount of skill and practice. Although it is sometimes used to flavor lentils and curries, the pickled(both sweet and spicy) version is loved the most.
Tender Bamboo Shoot: Natives of the North-Eastern states swear by their daily dose of pickle Bamboo Shoot, called Khorisa in Assam. The shoots are either ground or grated and then fermented, usually with Ghost Chillies(Bhoot Jolokia), Poison Chillies(Bih Jolokia) or Naga Chillies (Noga Jolokia) and a little oil and salt. Beware-The end-product is very strong.
Akhuni: This strong-smelling pickle is a staple during Naga meals. Akhuni is a soybean that grows throughout the Northeast. It is fermented by wrapping the beans in banana leaves and letting them ferment for a few days. For the uninitiated, it is more of an acquired taste. Another variation is found in Meghalaya called Jadoh and in Sikkim called Kinema.
Gundruk & Sinki: These are prepared during winters in Sikkim and also parts of Nepal and the Darjeeling region. Gundruk is made of leafy vegetables and Sinki is made of radish tap root. These are then used in many traditional recipes.
Next time you in this part of the country, do not forget to sample these pickles. Each of them is a slice of history you can’t afford to miss.