Travel across India from North to South and from the centre to the West and you will find that food is more or less similar with a few variations here and there. The North East is a different thing altogether. With a culture enriched by 200 tribes tracing their origins to various South East Asian countries and a simple lifestyle, their cuisine is different, making ample use of rice, fish, pork, beef and fowl. These fresh ingredients with vegetables and herbs are cooked with minimum of oil, making them tasty and nutritious. The same goes for sweet dishes of North East India. These are simple with very little or no use of khoya. You can buy Rajasthani Ghevar in Delhi or Mumbai but not these North East Indian desserts, not even in restaurants. You would have to travel all the way to the seven sister states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram, Nagaland, Assam and Meghalaya to taste these earthy treats. Another way is to try out the top 7 sweet dishes from North East India presented here with rough guidelines on preparation.
This sweet is not specific to the North East but it is quite popular nonetheless. You will find a version existing in the South of India, prepared virtually the same way. Tel pitha is made from rice and jaggery, a healthy, tasty and nutritious sweet. The process is simple enough. Soak rice for an hour or two, drain, dry and then pound to powder. Make thick syrup by melting jaggery in a pan with a little water. Add rice powder to this thick syrup and knead into dough. Take small balls and flatten with rolling pin. Fry these cakes in oil.
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Narikol, ladoo or Laru
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Chakhao Kheer or Chak Hao Kheer
Indians are familiar with rice kheer so popular in the Northern states. The North East of India has a different version. This is one of the delightful sweet dishes of North East India, specifically Manipur, which you will love for its taste and goodness.
Black rice known as Chak Hao is used to make this kheer. Black rice is better than white rice in that it has higher amount of amino acids, vitamins and nutrition. The black color rice changes to purple on cooking, which color probably accounted for the fact that it was a favorite of royals of China. It is easy to make this sweet. Soak rice beforehand for a couple of hours. Drain and add to milk and cook until rice becomes soft and the kheer thickens. Add sugar and boil till melted. Garnish with nuts and ghee if you like or just sprinkle cardamom powder. Your Chakhao Kheer is ready to be relished!
From Assam comes Koat Pitha, another example of how North East Indian desserts can be yummy and nutritious as well. The ingredients are ripe bananas, jaggery and rice flour.
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You will find it easy to make Koat Pitha and enjoy it. Koat Pitha is one of the many sweet dishes for North East festivals, especially eaten during the Bihu festival. Mash 5 ripe bananas and add a cup of grated jaggery to the mix followed by a cup of coarse rice flour that you then knead into a dough and make medium sized balls. Fry these in hot oil or ghee until golden brown. Eat plain or with honey or better still, rabdi.
Chhangban Leh Kurtai
Sounds exotic but Chhangban Leh Kurtai is simplicity itself. Made from just two ingredients, rice flour and jiggery steamed into a delectable dish this is indeed a healthy, tasty treat from Mizoram. Rice flour is mixed into jaggery paste and instead of frying it is steamed after being enclosed within leaves. You could say this is a sweet for weight watchers since it has no fats.
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The Monpas of Arunachal love Khapse, a traditional sweet dish of North East India. So will you. It is healthy, full of fiber and nutritious. Instead of refined flour, wheat or rice flour, the flour used to make khapse is rajgara or red millet, which is full of iron. You can make this dish two ways.
In one method you simply knead a couple of cups of rajgara flour with salt and water and then fry in oil. Roll the dough flat, cut into strips and twist and then fry. Simply make a round doughnut like shape and then fry. The possibilities are many.
In another method you use milk to knead the flour. Add an egg to two cups of flour, some oil or ghee, 3-4 spoons of powdered sugar and then knead with milk to make soft dough. Roll as usual, cut into strips or circles. Then deep fry. Made this way, the biscuits are crisp and also soft.
Khamen Athoomba Ashinba (fried tomatoes with sugar syrup)
From Manipur you have the Khamen Athoomba Ashinba, a mouthful, which is nothing but fried tomatoes dunked in sugar syrup. Once you make it, the exotic look will surely make your mouth water.
- Take thick, large tomatoes, ripe but firm
- Fry them in ghee or oil. Use deep frying technique. Dip tomato in hot oil for a few moments and remove to avoid their splitting and breaking apart
- Make sugar syrup and add cardamom and kalonji or kali jeera powder
- Dunk fried tomatoes into the sugar syrup and enjoy
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