Bring a bit of the North-East into your kitchen

Rituparna Roy
Contd from previous issue
Known for its high curcumin content (around 9-12%), this powerhouse of a spice comes from the farms of Trinity Saioo, who was awarded the Padma Shri in 2020 for leading the turmeric revolution in the west Jaintia Hills. Founder Catherine Dohling also takes pride in sourcing packaged outenga powder from community farmers in Majuli in Assam. The product is made from elephant apple (or wood apple), a tangy fruit used extensively as a souring agent in Assamese cuisine. The online store also stocks perilla seed that is considered to be a superfood, and commonly used in Korean cooking.
In September 2020, Manipur-based Hill Wild, a brand known for its artisanal chocolates, launched a range of products under ‘Taste Ukhrul’. “Since Covid had tested our limitations, we wished to use our local strengths in the Ukhrul district to shift the power to the affected farmers,” says founder Zeinorin Stephen. Apart from spices, seeds, salts and wild dried fruits, her main aim is to protect the ecosystem in these trying times. A few months ago, the team sold a small batch of seasonal toasted perilla seed oil that went on to become a huge success. “Our farmers had an abundant harvest, which meant we had to activate the seeds in other forms to prevent wastage,” informs Stephen. The earthy and nutty tones of the oil are perfect for noodles, soups and salads.
Hill Wild also boasts of packaged Sirarakhong chilli, a variety that grows in the Sirarakhong village, and received the GI tag recently for its unique appearance; the chilli can grow almost 9 inches long, and is favoured for its deep red colour. Its exclusivity inspired Stephen to develop an intensely flavourful Talui Chilli Garlic paste (seasonal), where she tied up with an entrepreneur from Talui, a town known for its vast garlic plantations. Use it as a condiment in stir fries.
Kombucha, tea and wine : Lanuakum Imchen, who grew up in Mokokchung in Nagaland, recalls eating scoby as a child. “Considering it has probiotic properties, my parents would often make it at home,” says the Dimapur-based founder of Cold Mountain, a brand that started retailing kombuchas in August 2020. After several experiments, and setbacks due to the pandemic, Imchen launched three flavours—hibiscus, mint (spearmint and peppermint) and tulsi. The brand is also known for its wide selection of white, red and green teas with interesting concoctions created with medicinal herbs and spices. Imchen has been working with around 3000 farmers across the state as well as from other parts of the north-east to create sustainable agricultural methods.
Lovi Achumi started Tsuipu, a brand that specialises in 100% natural fruit wines, from her home in the Zunheboto district of Nagaland. Made from hand-picked produce endemic to the region, Achumi boasts of wines processed from peach, plums, starfruits, gooseberry, grapes, ginger, kiwi, strawberries and pears. “The idea was to make wines beyond grapes,” says the Dimapur-based founder, who believes in experimenting with all-natural beverages, and uses honey in place of sugar. The purpose is to develop table wines that boast of nutritional value, she says.