Haflong, the only hill station of Assam is also avowed as “the Switzerland of North East India” for its prepossessing beauty. Dimasa, being the indigenous tribe of this place, there are many other tribes such as Hmar, Jeme-Naga, Kuki, Biate, Hrangkhol, Khelma, Jaintia, Karbi, and Vaiphei. The delicacies of Haflong is palatable enough to impress the gourmets and cuisine connoisseur.
The Dimasa special Judima or the rice wine is a go-to drink and exceptionally popular in Haflong.
Another well-known dish is Pork with bamboo shoot. The pork is fried for about ten minutes and then it is mixed with other spices like garlic, chilly, etc. and the addition of bamboo shoot is followed by stirring the heavenly dish for about 40 minutes until an authentic aroma develops indicating that it is ready to serve.
Another heavenly dish that represents the authentic Dimasa cuisine is Lai Hon¸ which is cooked with fermented fish and thickened rice flour. Here freshly chopped Lai (Brassica juncea) is added into boiling water with chilies, followed by the addition of salt and Khari (alkali), and let it cook at low flame until done. Fermented fish is washed and added to the mixture, once the fish is cooked, the dish is almost done. Lastly, a smooth paste of rice flour is prepared by adding water and is added stirring it to make sure there are no lumps.
Indigenous spices and herbs king chilly, Ginger leaves, etc. plays an important role in Dimasa cuisines. It is incomplete without the king's chilly chutney. Here the king chilly and fermented fish (optional) are roasted together followed by the addition of garlic and salt, pounding into a smooth paste. It is often served with boiled vegetables or daily meals.
Some other divided delicacies are Sizou Mepoh, where Sizou leaves are dipped in soda solution for 10 minutes and the leaf is fried with pork until cooked and then the spices are added with water and are stirred for about 30 minutes for a divine texture. Vo ok with Nempo and pork with fermented fried soya beans (a Jaintia special cuisine) is other delicious cuisines native to Haflong.
Pork and chicken are some primary meat source the natives relish as chicken with pumpkin, chicken with bamboo shoot, chicken with black sesame seed, pork dry fry, pork with black sesame seed, pork with lai and the list goes on.
Attuning to ethnic cuisine and culture, the concept of “Haflong Ethnic Street Food Market” was developed in 2019 by Haflong Municipal Board and Dima Hasao Tourism in collaboration with Blue Hills Society and Haplou. People experience and savor the unique cuisines of different tribal delicacies of Haflong. Local talents plying their skills on the street corners are also seen. Visitors can savor the delicious street food and at the same time, they can also enjoy the view of Haflong Lake.
A two-day food festival was organized in The Landmark Hotel in Guwahati to promote Dimasa cuisine and culture. Delicacies like daono hon (chicken with rice flour), honohaing hon (pork with rice flour), Nah shongyaba (fish curry), honohaingshapinyaba (pork chutney), naplamshapinyaba (fermented fish chutney), naplambrengyaba (fermented fish with vegetables), sbaihakhari (black lentils) and shiblingshapinyaba (sesame chutney) with boiled rice are ready to tickle the tastebuds of visitors along with rice wine Judima were served traditionally.
Most of the ethnic and tribal people primarily thrive on cultivated plants and forest products. Fruits like Pears and Pineapples are widely grown in and around Haflong. Edible plants and vegetables prevalent amongst the locals are Panthao, Laigonthai, MozoKamao, Miya Baire, etc.. The ethnic food, local herbs, and wild plants can be a successful venture for the economic upliftment in society.
We had a very good opportunity to have an interaction with Mrs. Kanak Hagjer from Haflong. She is the author of “Shong Dima” which is a Dimasa Cuisine cookbook. She was generous enough to share her knowledge on Dimasa Cuisines and also some amazing and scrumptious recipes with us.
1. Khari with colocasia, mustard greens, and smoked fish
Khari is a term used both for the dish and the ingredient (alkali) that goes into the dish. The alkali is made from the dried stems of banana plants, sesame plants, young bamboo, or black lentil plants. These are burnt and the ashes are gathered in a basket. Water is passed through the ashes. It filters down gradually into a container kept below. The alkali is then stored in bottles. Below is a recipe for one cooked with alkali. Khari is often cooked in Dimasa homes. Along with the vegetables of the season, the other additions are chilies, fermented fish, salt, and herbs for the garnish. The simplest form of Khari cooked with one type of vegetable will need an accompaniment. But khari cooked with two or more vegetables, with the addition of smoked meat or fish, can be one-pot wonders. In this case, no other accompaniment is needed. Steaming hot rice is enough!
2. Daonohain hon (Chicken Curry With Rice Flour)
Some dishes remain forever fresh and appealing. We all love to try out new tastes and new ingredients but we all come back to comfort food. For us Dimasas, one of our all-time favorite dishes/comfort food is this chicken curry cooked with a few spices, and thickened with rice flour. Called Daono-hain hon, the literal translation is “chicken cooked with rice flour”. With our staple being rice, the cereal in powder or paste form is used as a thickening agent in our curries.
3. HangathaiNaphlam (Chutney made of teasel gourd)
Summer means gourds and teasel gourd are abundantly available. Despite its spiny appearance (which gives it its other name…hedgehog gourd) the taste is mild. When we were growing up, almost every backyard garden had this plant making an appearance during the first rains of the year and them climbing up trellises or branches to bloom and bear. The monsoon season is when the gourds are at their peak. They are usually eaten fried, added to fish curries, cooked with other vegetables, made into chutney, or made into fritters.
Mrs. Kanak Hagjer
Ms. Arindita Baruah
Ms. Anushmita Baruah
The detailed recipes of these amazing authentic cuisines by Mrs. Kanak Hagjer are in the 'recipes' section.