Naga Tomato Chutney
EVENT: SHHH COOKING SECRETLY
THEME: NAGALAND CUISINE
Nagaland, one of the seven sister state is mountainous state bordering Myanmar in the east, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam to the north, Assam to the west and Manipur to the south. Home to diverse indigenous tribes, their markets and festivals celebrate diverse cultures. I had no idea that the capital city of the state, Kohima, suffered heavy fighting during World War 2. Nagaland is one of the smallest states of India, but by no means backward. Literacy rate is 79.55% and the official language is English. Though the 16 different tribes may have different cultures, ethnic dresses and different languages, the official language unifies them as one. Majority of the people from Nagaland are Christians by faith.
20% of Nagaland is covered by wooded forest making it a haven for flora and fauna.Mt. Saramati is the highest peak in Nagaland, its range adding as a natural barrier between Nagaland and Myanmar.Agriculture is an important part of the economy.
Coming to the cuisine of this state, naturally growing edible leaves are consumed along with fish or meat and rice. Their cooking method can be pretty simple without much oil or no oil at all. I recently met someone from Nagaland and he told me that to experience the true cuisine of Nagaland one needs to eat at home. Most people in Nagaland prepare their food at home so its difficult to find a restaurant that will serve authentic Naga food. You will find restaurants serving North Indian food or momos. A normal Naga food meal would include rice, some kind of meat (either dry or pork with bamboo shoots), boiled vegetables, and spicy chili sauces or chutneys. Food is eaten with your hand. They also tend to add axone which is boiled and fermented soy beans either smoked or sun dried. Some chutneys may have axone or dried fish added to it. Their food tends to be spicy as they make use of chilis, and special spicy ginger and garlic. Not much of mixed dry spices are used. Meat is usually smoked or sun dried and enjoyed throughout the year. Pork is their favorite and therefore a pork lover’s paradise.
Some dishes that are a part of the Naga Cuisine are:
- Akibiye – a thick stew made from colocasia roots or arbi and mustard leaves.
- Fish in Bamboo – a fish is placed inside the bamboo along with some fresh spices and smoked over fire.
- Pork with dry bamboo shoots – chunks of pork are fried with dry bamboo shoots and fiery hot chilis.
- Hinkejvu – a simple stew like dish made from colocasia, cabbage, mustard leaves and some green beans. Usually served with rice and a hot chutney.
- Akini Chokibo – snail meat is cooked with perilla seeds, lard from pork and axone. Perilla is a type of natural herb like mint.
- Smoked pork stew – akhuni or axone is boiled with smoky pork chunks, potatoes, tomatoes and chilis.
- Bushmeat – its a delicacy prepared using dog meat.
- Galho – a soupy concoction of rice, vegetables and sometimes meat added to it. Its their version of khichdi. Seasonal greens are added and if using meat then smoked pork, pork chunks or pork lard is added. For a vegetarian version, sometimes ginger and garlic are added.
- Roasted Intestines – the intestines of a pig are cooked to resemble strips of bacon and sausage chunks.
- Zutho – fermented rice drink.
My partner for this month is Pavani who blogs at Pavani’s Kitchen. Check out her blog for a mixture of non vegetarian and vegetarian recipes. I gave her fresh green leaves and tomato as her secret ingredients. She made Naga Galho with the ingredients. She was kind enough to give me simple ingredients like tomato and garlic as I wanted to prepare a dish using what I had in the kitchen. I was in the process of closing down my kitchen as I’m traveling and didn’t want to buy any new ingredients.
With the ingredients she suggested I made a Naga Tomato Chutney/Chawtni. Here the tomatoes are boiled with ginger, garlic and lots of chilis till the tomatoes become soft and then the chutney is mashed slightly with the back of the cooking spoon. If you can source some raja chilis(ghost chilis, bhut jolokia) then use those. Since I didn’t have them I used normal green chilis which by no means were mild. An interesting fact is that during the annual Hornbill Festival ghost chili eating competitions are held.
As I mentioned above, chutneys form an important part of the daily meal as not many spices are used in the main dishes.
NAGA TOMATO CHUTNEY
Makes 1 cup
2-3 large tomatoes, chopped roughly
2-3 fresh chillis of your choice
2-3 whole dried red chillis
6-8 cloves of garlic, chopped
1″ piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
½ cup finely chopped fresh coriander and mint (perilla)
¼ – ½ tsp salt
½ cup water
- Add all the ingredients except for salt, coriander and mint into a pan.
- Put the pan over low heat and allow the ingredients to cook gently till the tomatoes become soft and the water has evaporated.
- Add salt, chopped coriander and mint. Let the mixture simmer for 1-2 minutes, stirring it frequently.
- Lightly mash the mixture with the back of a spoon or just process it with a hand blender in short bursts. You don’t want a smooth chutney so be careful.
- Enjoy it with some traditional Naga dish or any dish of your preference. I simply enjoyed this chutney with some rice.
- Use ghost chili and perilla if you can get it.
- Adding the number of chilis depends on how hot you want the chutney.
- Sometimes powdered fermented soybeans or dried fish are added.
- Don’t leave the chutney watery as on mashing it or processing it a bit, water is released from the tomatoes.
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