Food in Arunachal Pradesh varies from tribe to tribe. Namsai region, for example, is inhabited by Theravada Buddhist Tribes such as Tai Khamptis, Singphos and Tangas. These tribes look healthier and younger than their actual age because of their highly nutritious and locally grown herbs and veggies. They are known for their delicious and wholesome cuisines as well which are either boiled or steamed and prepared following traditional cooking methods.
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Their food is largely rice-based and supplemented by local green vegetables, fish and meat. If you try out Namsai cuisines, you would find that they mostly belong to Tai Khamptis, prepared primarily by blending rice with boiled leafy vegetables and homegrown spices and herbs such as ginger, chilly, garlic, white basil and bamboo shoots. In some recipes, they also use local herbs like po-hoi-hom, pi-chim-khim, mau-plo-mo, etc.
The cuisines to try out while visiting Namsai
Paa Saa is the most popular dish of Khampti cuisine. The fish soup is also known as the warrior’s strength soup. Preparing Paa Saa doesn’t require much time as it can be made within an hour. Paa Saa is made of raw fish (boneless and finely chopped), ginger, garlic, chilli, phoi-hom, pee-chim-khim, and ooriam leaves and traditionally served cold with rice and Paa Saa chutney. The key ingredient of this soup is the Uriam leaf (khum phat).
Khau Laam happens to be a rice dish that is steamed in bamboo tubes. It is another delicious delight offered by the Tai Khampti tribe. To prepare Khau Laam, local rice and khaulam ba (bamboo variant) are used. The rice is soaked overnight and filled into bamboo tubes, leaving enough space for expansion. Then the bamboo is sealed with ko pat leaf and then placed on an open fire.
Khau Ho is another rice dish prepared in a steam rice cooker and then shaped into balls wrapped in a leaf locally known as tong. Assamese identifies it by the name of ko-pat.
Other than Namsai’s popular dishes, you can also taste Nau Khai; a smoked meat dish made of mithun and ephitsom (fried or barbequed fish and rice); Tongtep, a steamed pancake wrapped in a leaf; Paa Ping, a fish dish that is roasted using bamboo skewer; Thoneen, boiled lentils (moong dal); Phak Kho, a mixed leafy vegetable; Paa Chaw, a fermented fish item fried in mustard oil; and Muokhuo Toum, a boiled soup of eggplant.
Lastly, when you visit Namsai, get prepared to down numerous glasses of beer as no meal is complete without a glass of Apong (rice beer) in Namsai.