“Vampire’s blood on the rocks, shrimp samosas and snake eyeballs with hot chocolate sauce for dessert!” was my reply when a friend asked me what I wanted to have on the usual weekend get-together at our regular eatery. The reply was out of irritation to a question being asked repetitively but it triggered off the conversation about weird foods eaten in India.
As we talked, I began to realize that there was a world of culinary weird out there that I had absolutely no idea of. It intrigued me and I decided to dig a little deeper, venture into the food unknown. A month of research and some unusual tasting sessions later, I decided to write this piece, to bring you this world of unique and unusual foods, lesser known yet eaten in different parts of India.
Take a look:
Khorisa: This is the popular Assamese name of grated bamboo shoot in fermented, raw or pickled form. It is a widely used ethnic food ingredient in Assam and gives the cuisine of this region a distinct flavour. Eaten mainly with fish, Khorisa is a widely enjoyed food ingredient among the natives of this North Eastern state.
Phan Pyut: Rotten potato. Yes, you read that right. And there are people who love eating this, consider it delicious. Potatoes are not harvested when they are ripe but left untouched till they rot. The rotten potatoes are picked and then are either consumed in their natural form or cooked or treated with spices before eating. Eaten in many parts of North East India, Phan Pyut is good add-on in regular meal.
Chaprah: For the tribal population of Chattisgarh, Chaprah is regular chutney that adds taste to their meal. What’s this specialty chutney made of? Red ants and their eggs! To prepare Chaprah, red ants are dried; spices and sweeteners are then added and the chutney is ready to be eaten with any meal.
Nahkham: This dish is a popular food among the Garos of Meghalaya. The key ingredients of this dish are dried fish, distilled ashes (yes, that black powdery leftover of any object put on fire) and vegetables – but only to enhance the taste if you wish. The otherwise delicious food dish has only one problem – its pungent odor.
Baby Shark Curry: On the waters of Goa, one of the most impressive sights is the baby shark. The same baby shark is a star dish of Goan cuisine – Baby Shark Curry. This dish is prepared using different sauces and it doesn’t come cheap. The fishermen put lots of effort to catch them and this generally reflects on the price of the dish.
Eri Polu: This is a popular food ingredient in Assam. It’s basically eri silkworm pupa. This means once a silkworm starts enclosing the cocoon of eri silk, the pupa state of their life cycle begins and as soon as the silk is taken out by boiling the cocoon in hot water, the leftover silkworm – the pupa – is prepared with Khorisa, another exotic food ingredient of this state (see unusual dish number one). The dish looks colourful, has a strong aroma and literally melts in your mouth.
Dog Meat: Among the tribal communities of Nagaland and Mizoram, dog meat is widely popular and one of the main components of their cuisine. The meat is prepared in different ways – from fried to smoked to curried to dried and enjoyed with fervor.
Black Rice: Also known as Magic Rice, Forbidden Rice and Purple Rice, Black Rice is a popular food preparation in Manipur and is full of health benefits. Found only in India and China, this unusual rice type is black in colour when harvested but turns purple when cooked. Mostly enjoyed with coconut milk, Black Rice is also commonly found in the cuisine in Kerala and the hills of North Bengal.
Sorpotel (Chouricos): The Portuguese influence in Goan cuisine is no secret and Sorpotel is a dish that symbolizes everything Portuguese. Sorpotel is made of pork offal – offal being the integral organs and entrails of any animal, which are otherwise discarded as waste material.
Frog Legs: Frog legs are a delicacy among the Lepchas community of Sikkim. The dish is also known to have medicinal qualities. Prepared in multiple ways, it is believed that frog legs can cure various stomach related diseases.