The cuisine of the Khasis and Jaintias in Meghalaya relies on a few staple flavours, including mustard oil and black and white sesame seed paste. The rice, either plain white or jadoh (a fluffy yellow version cooked with stock and meat), is eaten with a variety of smoked or unsmoked meats or fish curries, and light stews usually made with tyrso (pungent mustard leaves), jhur sdieh (mixed fried vegetables) and tungtap (dried fish chutney) or tungrungbai (chutney made from fermented soyabean and black sesame seed paste).
The best local food usually isn’t served in posh, fancy restaurants; instead, Meghalaya is dotted with small jadoh stalls where locals drop in for sha (tea), jingbam (snacks) and full meals at all hours of the day.
One of the most popular places in Laitumkhrah (one of Shillong’s main commercial and residential areas) is the family-run Jaintia Jadoh Stall. Shongsuklang Langsteih, the young chef there, enjoys cooking doh khleh (meat mixed with ginger and onion) because “it’s light, can be prepared quickly and has little or no masala”. This dish comprises cuts of pork and the animal’s soft parts (including intestines and brain), mixed gently with fresh ginger and onion. Kong Bih, who runs a small stall near the Laitumkhrah market, however enjoys cooking doh shiang (minced beef cutlet), because “it makes for both a quick snack and can also be part of a meal”. Her doh shiang is soft, crumbly and mildly spicy, and is perfect when eaten with a portion of putharo (rice pancake) and pickled soh phoh (a Khasi pear that’s more tangy than usual).
Beef up: Bih’s doh shiang cutlets. Wanphrang Diengdoh/Mint
During weddings and festivals, the food is usually the same, with a few additions like ja snam (brown rice cooked with chicken’s blood) and dai iong (lentils made with black sesame paste). The people are also fond of fish fried to a crisp in mustard oil, local wild mushroom, banana flower (usually made into a chutney), muli khleh (grated radish with white sesame paste), and smoked pork cooked with sweet red pumpkin.
MAKES 12 CUTLETS
1/2 kg minced beef
A 3-inch piece of ginger
1 tsp ground red chilli
2-3 cloves (optional)
4 tbsp mustard oil
Boil the minced beef with water (just above the level of the meat), until almost completely dry. Let it cool. Heat the oil. Grind ginger to a paste and mix well with the meat. Add ground chilli, cloves and salt. Roll the mixture into balls the size of golf balls. Deep-fry until dark golden brown.
Recipe courtesy Kong Bih.
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