The Raja Mircha Bloody Mary is wicked and deceptive. The salt on the rim of the glass is what you taste first. The ice cubes floating on top trick you into expecting a cooling sensation, welcome relief from the sweltering heat outside. But within seconds, you feel the kick of stinging heat creeping up, setting your mouth on fire.
The Raja Mircha Bloody Mary (1+1 for Rs350, plus taxes) sums up the Raja Mircha Festival that is now on at Nagaland’s Kitchen. With the fiery chilli pepper, the pride of the North-East, as the hero, the restaurant wants you to sweat. Used widely in the region, it is one of the world’s hottest chillies—it is rated at above 1 million Scoville heat units (SHUs). In comparison, a classic Tabasco sauce ranges from 2,500-5,000 SHUs.
So it was with a sense of excitement that I stepped into Nagaland’s Kitchen, a restaurant that is tucked away in an unobtrusive corner of Green Park in south Delhi.
The menu for the Raja Mircha Festival, which is on till 5 October, is curated by the owner, Chubamanen Longkumer, and features five dishes (two each of chicken and pork, and one vegetarian), two chutneys and one cocktail (the Bloody Mary) from the restaurant’s main menu. Some of the dishes come in two variants—spicy and extra spicy—and it’s recommended that you try both to understand the difference in heat.
We ordered a chicken (extra spicy), a pork (spicy) and the vegetarian dish (spicy) along with the Raja Mircha chutney (extra spicy) and Bloody Mary.
The Pork Ribs (Rs399, plus taxes) were cooked perfectly—the skin crisp, the fat rendered beautifully and the meat tender. Ditching the “oh-not-so-hot” spicy chutney after a few bites, we dug into the extra spicy version and were caught off-guard by the sharp heat. The pork definitely tasted better with the extra spicy chutney.
But what really elevated the experience was the soupy Mixed Vegetables with Raja Mircha (Rs245, plus taxes), which was essentially a stew of vegetables such as babycorn, carrot, button mushroom, pea shoot, bell pepper, zucchini and broccoli, cooked with herbs and, of course, the Raja Mircha. Even paired with steamed rice, it was so excruciatingly hot that it made my lunch partner, who generally has a high tolerance for chillies, rejoice at eating boiled rice. Despite the heat, though, one couldn’t stop digging in.
The most underwhelming of the dishes we tried was Chicken Wings With Raja Mircha (Rs380, plus taxes); the skin was soggy and the salsa-like sauce of onion, garlic and tomatoes just didn’t have enough heat.
So should you give this a try? Yes. Whether you’re chilli-tolerant or not, this is one experience you shouldn’t miss—if only to acquaint yourself with the fabled chilli.
The Raja Mircha Festival is on till 5 October.
Nagaland’s Kitchen, S-2, Uphaar Cinema Complex, Green Park Extension Market, New Delhi. Open from 11.30am-midnight.