Haflong is avowed as “Switzerland of Northeast India”.Well, apart from Haflong’s scenic beauty, it is also known for its diverse culture. Haflong is home to Hmar, Jeme-Naga, Kuki, Biate, Hrangkhol, Khelma, Jaintia, Karbi, and Vaiphei being Dimasa the indigenous tribe of the place.

Some authentic delicacies one can relish in Haflong is Pork with Bamboo shoot,  Khari with colocasia, mustard greens, and smoked fish, Daonohain hon (Chicken curry with rice flour). Hangthai Naplam (Chutney made with teasel gourd).

We had a very good opportunity to have an interaction with Mrs. Kanak Hagjer from Haflong. She is the author of “Shong Dima” which is a Dimasa Cuisine cookbook. She was generous enough to share her knowledge on Dimasa Cuisines and also some amazing recipes with us.

1.Khari with colocasia, mustard greens, and smoked fish.

Khari is a term used both for the dish and the ingredient (alkali) that goes into the dish. The alkali is made from the dried stems of banana plants, sesame plants, young bamboo, or black lentil plants. Khari cooked with two or more vegetables, with the addition of smoked meat or fish, can be one-pot wonders. In this case, no other accompaniment is needed. Steaming hot rice is enough!

The ingredients required for this dish are: 

• 6 smoked fish (cut in middle)

• 5-6 colocasia (thadimai)

• 1 bunch of mustard greens

• 5-6 green chilies (scored lengthwise)

• 1 tbs Khari, 

• 1 large-sized fermented fish

• salt to taste

• herbs for garnishing

Cooking Process:

• Wash the smoked fish gently in lukewarm water to get rid of the dust accumulated in the smoking process.

• Tear off the mustard plants into small pieces, wash and drain out the water.

• Scrape off the skin of the colocasia. These are not the itchy variety but most people like to boil them for a short while and throw the water away. A precaution is often taken with these roots.

• Boil 2 cups of water in a pan and add the chilies. 

• A few minutes later, add the prepared roots. 

• Cook till the colocasia is nearly done, then add the alkali. 

• Lower the flame as the contents will bubble and froth. 

• Add the fermented fish and season with salt. 

• Add the mustard greens and give the Khari a gentle stir. 

• As soon as the stems turn soft, put in the smoked fish and cook for around five minutes.

• Remove from the stove and garnish with herbs.

• Herbs commonly used for Khari are bahanda a plant from the basil family with a refreshing smell and taste.

• Bakhoror serrated coriander. Other than herbs, crushed cloves of garlic are added just before the dish is removed from the flame.

(The cooking time will take 20-25 minutes)

2. Daonohain hon (Chicken Curry With Rice Flour)

One of  all-time favorite dishes/comfort food for the natives of Haflong is this chicken curry cooked with a few spices, and thickened with rice flour. Called Daono-hain hon, the literal translation is “chicken cooked with rice flour”?

The ingredients required for this dish are: 

• Chicken with skin (800grams)

• 2-3 medium onions

• A one-inch piece of ginger

• A quarter teaspoon garlic

• 10-12green chilies

• Nearly half a teaspoon turmeric

• About 3 tablespoons mustard oil

• Salt to taste

• 3 tablespoons rice flour

• Half a dozen 

• Ginger leaves.

Cooking Process:

• Singe the chicken over the flame on all sides till evenly browned to imparts a faint smoky smell and burn up some of the downy feathers that remain. 

• Cut the chicken into regular curry-size pieces.

• Marinate the chicken pieces with salt and turmeric.

• Peel and grate the onions.

• Wash and slit the green chilies. (Suggested to not discard the seeds).

• Peel the ginger and grind it into a coarse paste.

• Peel the garlic (about 10 cloves) and make it into a paste.

• Heat the oil in a kadhai.

• Add the onions and fry for a few minutes. 

• Add the chilies.

• Add the chicken pieces and the ginger/garlic pastes and fry till the oil separates. (around 25 minutes).

• Add about 4 cups of water.

• Make a paste of the rice flour by adding a little bit of water. 

• Once the meat is tender, add the flour paste is added and remove the dish from the flame.

• Wash and tear the ginger leaves and garnish the ‘hon’

• (The use of spices like cumin, red chilies, and coriander is optional. This curry goes best with steaming hot rice.) 

3. HangathaiNaphlam (Chutney made of teasel gourd)

Summer means gourd and Teasel Gourd are abundantly available.  The monsoon season is when the gourds are at their peak. They are usually eaten fried, added to fish curries, cooked with other vegetables, made into chutney, or made into fritters

The ingredients required for this dish are: 

• Six tender teasel gourds

• 6-8 green chilies

• 3fermented fish (napalm)

A pinch of soda bicarbonate

• Chopped herbs for garnishing the chutney

Cooking Process:

•Remove the ends of the gourds. Scrape off the spiny skin (optional).

•Wash and boil them in very little salted water till they are tender and can be easily mashed.

•Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.

•On hot coals, roast the chilies, and the fermented fish. (A Tawa on the gas stove also works well for this procedure.)

•Remove the charred skin of the chilies and chop them into fine pieces.

•Mash the fermented fish (napalm) with the back of a ladle, and then add the chilies. 

•Mash the gourd and add to the chopped chili and fermented fish mixture. Add soda bicarbonate. Mix well and Scatter the chopped herbs and give it a last gentle mix and the chutney is ready to be served.

Credits – 

Mrs. Kanak Hagjer 

Ms. Arindita Baruah

Ms. Anushmita Baruah

The blog on all these cuisines is in the ‘food blog’ section. 

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