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    Naga delicacies find a tasting in city cuisine

    Chef Aketoli Zhimoni from Dimapur, Nagaland arrives in the city for a week-long festival of Naga delicacies at Thulp, thanks to the efforts of Rohan Abraham of PledgeBack and Gautam Krishnankutty of Thulp who team up in an effort to give city foodies a rare tasting. Traditional recipes  find their way into Zhimoni’s culinary experiments as the visiting chef de-mystifies the art of the little known cuisine.

    Mission to revive
    Abraham met Zhimoni while on a trip with India Trails, a socially-oriented travel company. “When we met chef Aketoli in Kohima in December 2013, she mentioned she was looking to start a restaurant in Dimapur. We thought this would be a great opportunity for us to promote Naga food in the rest of India as well,” shares Abraham who reiterates that one of India Trail’s missions is to promote local entrepreneurship. And Zhimoni comes with a great balance of experience and fresh ideas. “I try to revive indigenous ingredients that are hardly used even back home anymore, traditionally picked from forests, and give them a more upbeat flavour,” she explains.

    Back to the basics
    She goes on to describe the cuisine as light, flavourful, easy to prepare and healthy with most of the dishes boiled and not fried. “They are simple, use a lot of basic ingredients like ginger, garlic and a lot of bamboo shoots, and a special variety of spice called Sichuan pepper that we get there,” she shares.

    The menu she has put together for the festival is mostly meat-centric, which she confides, is characteristic of the cuisine. But a few key vegetarian dishes are included keeping the mixed consumer in mind — the fresh green salad with roasted perilla seed, the mixed vegetable gravy, bamboo flowers with wild sesame paste, and slow-cooked yam in a thick, textured gravy.

    Meat paradise
    The rest of the menu is sure to be a hit — chef specials like the black sesame beef that won her the Naga Chef competition, athumu kha – rohu fish marinated in a sour-spice powder and mustard oil, chicken slow-cooked in its own stock with bamboo shoot and chilies, smoked pork with fermented soya bean, and smoked beef with sun-dried yam leaves. Traditional dishes like chicken porridge with Naga red rice also find a place on the list of delicacies that chef Zhimoni warns can sometimes smell particularly pungent but are surprisingly contrary in taste as a pleasant combination of simple flavours.

    Rs. 600+. March 1-7. Cooking classes as per request. At Indiranagar. Details: 41607606

    Susanna Chandy

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