Apart from the natural attraction like lakes and wildlife hotspots and ruins of ancient dynasties, Manipur has many other attractions for the tourists. The culture of the regional tribes staying in the hilly northeastern state can leave you mesmerized. The festivals, religious nuances and even cuisine of these tribes are worth experiencing. The Meitei tribe is among the major ethnic groups living in Manipur and they are credited with cultural development of the remote, hilly state. The cuisine of this tribe can seem quite enticing too.
Impact of culture on food habits
The culture and religion of the Meitei tribe has left a profound impact on their cuisine as well. They are mostly Vaishnavite by faith and so their non-vegetarian dishes are limited to fish and chicken, unlike the tribes of neighboring states. In most of their festivals, they stick to vegetarian foods. In festivals, cooking is done by Manipuri Brahmins. Even in the kitchen, the Meiteis adhere to certain rituals.
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The nuances of Meitei Cuisine
The Meitei people prepare the majority dishes with fresh produce and ingredients and believe in using minimal amount of oil. Yet most of their dishes are tantalizing to taste buds and do not cut down on health quotient either.
Rice is a staple in their food and they also use fish a lot, even in making side dishes. They use chilli pepper but avoid using garam masala in the dishes which makes the dishes flavorful. They use plenty of natural herbs and spices in the food including chives, basil and mint. In most Meitei households, the vegetables and fruits used in kitchen are grown at farms and gardens- and this ensures the produce is organic. Most of them also use fish caught from local rivers or ponds. They use seasonal vegetables a lot in their dishes including locally grown mushrooms.
The Meiteis store sun-dried fish in large amounts. It is added to the majority of dishes they cook. They also use fermented fish ngari and bamboo shoot a lot. Of special mention is Kangshoi, a stew that is tasty yet involves no oil in preparation. Another popular dish is iromba which is made with various mashed vegetables and fermented fish. At the end of a meal, they usually serve sweet dishes like Kheer, Sana Thonba etc. In top festivals, they prepare desserts like Chak Hao Amubi (black rice pudding).