Sometimes the comforting taste of casual street food is better than a glamorous night out at a fine dining restaurant. And Northeast India has a street food culture that is as vibrant as its heritage and as beautiful as its people. From lanes packed with humble carts serving speciality dishes, to rows of eateries that overflow onto roads, the streets of Northeast India are a gastronomic kaleidoscope.
Order any dish from a street eatery in the Northeast and it’s likely to be packed with an abundance of flavours that come at a minimal price. Contrary to popular perception, Northeast food is way more varied than just momos and noodles, although these too can taste divine.
Manipur is known for its simple seasonal stews while Meghalaya is more famous for its spicy meat and fish preparations. Nagaland, on the other hand, is better known for its bamboo and pork fare and Mizoram prefers subtly flavoured, boiled food rather than the fried kind. The influence of neighbours like China, Myanmar and Thailand can easily be seen in the cuisines of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, while Tripura is better known for its bursting masalas, a trait it shares with the rest of the country. Assamese food ranges from spicy to bland, with rice being the centrepiece of this cuisine.
In short, the street food in Northeast India is extraordinary but you definitely need some prior knowledge about what the region is best known for. Here are 8 amazing local delights from Northeast India that will leave your palate demanding more. Let the culinary adventure begin!
1. Laksa from Assam
A staple street food in Assam, Laksa is a Malaysian origin spicy noodle soup that can awaken your taste buds. The unique taste of this delicious broth actually comes from a blend of coconut milk, tamarind, flavoured fish paste, and spices. Rice vermicelli is dunked into the steaming bowl, resulting in a healthy and hearty meal. Many versions of this truly addictive dish are sold on the streets of Assamese cities.
Related: Top Street Food from Assam
2. Alu Muri in Meghalaya
An unquestionably mouth-watering mix of boiled potatoes, puffed rice, papaya skin, oil, roasted spices, and tamarind sauce, Meghalaya’s alu muri is the perfect recipe for the Indian palate. A much-loved favourite of the locals, one can find this irresistible snack at prominent alu muri stalls located at every nook and corner of Shillong.
Related: Famous Foods of Meghalaya
3. Thenthuk from Arunachal Pradesh
Thenthuk is a hearty hand-pulled noodle soup made from meat stock, local hill vegetables and freshly made noodles. It is similar in taste and texture to thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup). While thukpa is made from flat noodles, thenthuk uses hand-pulled or bite sized pieces of flat noodles. Traditionally eaten to keep warm during the freezing winters of Arunachal Pradesh, this deliciously comforting dish warms your soul too!
Related: Famous Dishes of Arunachal Pradesh
4. Chikhvi in Tripura
A fragrant stir fry of bamboo shoots and sliced pork, Tripura’s chikvi is a dish that achieves the perfect balance of smokiness and lusciousness. It is made with stir fried chopped bamboo shoots and sliced pork. Other ingredients added are soaked jack fruit seed, green papaya, green chillies, ginger paste, turmeric powder, rice flour paste, and fresh lime leaves. The pork and bamboo shoots, cooked in a blend of soaked green papaya seeds, green chillies, ginger, turmeric, rice flour, and fresh lime leaves, are succulent and beautifully spiced.
5. Smoked Pork Stir Fry in Nagaland
This may be one of the more exotic dishes on this list but Nagaland’s smoked pork stir fry is too good to be left out. The state has many versions of this smoked pork dish but the trademark item among the ingredients is the hottest chilli in the world, Raja Mirchi or Bhut Jolokia (ghost chilli). Adding fermented soy bean (akhuni), fermented yam leaves (anishi) or bamboo shoot enhances the taste of the dish and brings out an intense smokiness that is unique and unusually delicious.
6. Sanpiau from Mizoram
A very popular Mizo snack sold in the streets, Sanpiau is a type of rice porridge that is served with fresh coriander paste, crushed black pepper, zesty fish sauce, and finely powdered rice. Topped with pan-sizzled spring onions, this freshly spiced dish has an intoxicating aroma. For those with a fondness for tasty, spicy but simple food, this Mizo classic may be just right.
7. Kelli Chana in Manipur
A herb-flavoured spicy chickpea snack from Manipur, kelli chana is usually served on a lotus leaf with the aroma of the leaf contributing to the taste of this delicious dish. Kelli chana apparently got its name from an old lady Kelli who used to sell the snack under a tree. The recipe soon became very popular.
8. Shapale in Sikkim
Similar to a large deep fried momo or a samosa, the Tibetan-origin shapale is essentially a meat pie. With a crunchy, doughy exterior and a gooey interior filled with minced chicken/meat, onions, and spices, shapale is an anytime street snack in Sikkim. Add a touch of the fiery hot chilli sauce to this savoury pie and pair it with rutang soup (soup made from bony meats) for a truly delectable street food experience.