Do you really need to travel to exotic destinations around the world to taste out of the ordinary eats? No, you don’t, for the varied foods eaten in the Northeast can very well match up to anything and more.
The Therapeutic Eel
The kusiya (local eel) has always been a favourite among the Assamese community. Even though nowadays it is not a common dish served in urban households, there was a time when this particular fish was held in high esteem among food lovers. But very few people realise the health benefits of this particular fish. It’s a proven fact in Assamese homes that the kusiya is the fish to eat if your doctor has prescribed alternative therapeutic ways to bring up haemoglobin levels. To ensure that one gets the most out of it, the kusiya needs to be beaten through its whole length and left to stand for about 20 to 30 minutes. And only after this, should the fish be skinned and cut into pieces to be cooked.
The fish is usually prepared without any spices. It tastes best with a little oil, salt and a generous amount of ginger. Fresh chillies can also be added. It can be had as a curry with plain rice or even as dry fry.
The Not So Slow Snail
The snail may not look appetizing enough to eat but is definitely worth a try. The snail is a part of many world cuisines as it has multiple health benefits besides enticing your taste buds. The inch size cone shaped snail is almost like a magic worm because it has been said that having snails regularly over a certain period of time improves eyesight.
One needs to give it a hard tap on top and take out the intestines at first. After this is done, the snails are washed and soaked in salted water for half an hour for the grit to come out. After that, the snails are cooked in their shells with ginger and chillies. To eat, you need to just slurp out the goodness, out of the cracked shells. These and snails of other varieties too are sold by tribal womenfolk in Guwahati’s Beltola Market.
To enjoy food the most important thing is to keep an open mind and the bravado to try the unconventional.
Hemen Neogi is retired D.T.O and avid food enthusiast
This article was first published in Eclectic (February 2013) issue