by Akanksha Kakati.
Chhum Han. Photo Credit: cookshideout.com
It is essential to visit the densely forested and exquisite mountain ranges of Mizoram while on the northeast trail. Mizoram translates to “the land of the hill people”. It is the second least populated state in the country with one of the highest literacy rates.
Mizo food is simple and easy to make as it is generally boiled with very less oil and spices. Even though spices and herbs are grown in kitchen gardens, they are used sparingly in the food. However, with increasing external influences the food habits of the people are starting to change. Mizo food is unique in the northeast because it has hints of North Indian, Burmese and Chinese cuisine. Vegetables dominate the cuisine and people often use fresh organic greens from their kitchen gardens. In a usual meal rice is accompanied by vegetables and either pork or fish. Fish is cooked in mustard oil giving it a distinct flavour. Although many meats such as chicken, beef, duck and lamb are consumed, pork whether boiled, fried or smoked is at the heart of the food. Bamboo is commonly found and its shoots are regularly used to add flavour to meats to create delicious delicacies. A great deal of attention is paid to the natural flavour and nutrient value of the foods. The meal is customarily served in banana leafs.
Vawksa Rep. Photo Credit: mizoramonline.in
A Mizo kitchen always has meat hanging from skewers over the fireplace for drying, which is stored for later use. Vawksa Rep is a classic dish that consists of smoked pork sliced into succulent pieces. Bai, is a simple vegetable soup cooked with salt, chingal (soda) and fermented pig fat and is a chief favorite among people. Chhum Han is prepared by steaming various vegetables and usually eaten with rice, is another popular dish in Mizo households. Panch Phoron Tarkari is a very spicy chicken dish that is relished throughout Mizoram.
Bai. Photo Credit: mizoramonline.in
After each meal people like to eat fruits, jaggery and drink a delicious tea infused alcoholic concoction called Zu. Alcohol was banned in 1996, but due to societal problems (such drinking of local and unhealthy liquor) arising due to the prohibition of alcohol, the government amended the rules to allow the manufacture and consumption of wine. As a result the grape wine called Zawlaidi has become more popular among people. Various homemade wines are made with herbs, fruits and rice in every household.
Mizo grape wine. Photo Credit: mzrpaitelink.blogspot.in
The Mizos have a mixed ethnicity and are a very peaceful and hospitable people. When one visits a Mizo household, one is expected to stay for a meal or at least enjoy a cup of Zu with the family.
As Christianity is the major religion in the state, Christmas is a big occasion here. Families and friends come together to cook, eat and have fun. Pork or beef is usually cooked in a large pot on Christmas by men. During festivities whether rich or poor, everyone comes together to celebrate in order to bridge the gap between different sections of society.