Eat shoots, and leave with a taste of the North-East

If you thought you have missed the chance to taste grated bamboo shoots mixed with salt, mustard oil, onion and hot chilly prepared traditionally in North-East regions, here is some good news! You can now relish these palatable dishes in the capital too. Bamboo shoot dishes, considered exotic enough to merit a ‘special’ tag in the North- East, have cut across the regional barriers and made their way to tables in the national capital. It has found a place in the menu of top hotels as well as some of the more humble restaurants.

Bamboo shoots are used not only in items from the North-East, but also in Chinese, Thai, Japanese cuisine and also as condiment in many other food items. “We use bamboo in all our oriental cuisine. It adds flavour and gives a body to the food items like soups, chicken, mushroom, prawns and fish,” says Devraj Halder, Executive Chef of Uppal’s Orchid hotel. “These are a hot favourite with the foreigners visiting the country”, he added.

Concurring with this view, Dominic Joseph Tham, Chef of The Taste of China said, “With Chinese cuisine being a favourite in the country, bamboo shoots have become a common ingredient. People are also aware that bamboo is rich in nutrition value, with low fat, low calorie and low sugar. They prefer these items to be served first these days.”

Asked about sourcing of the shoots and the costs, Mr Halder said, “the bamboo shoots are mostly imported and cost Rs 400-500 per tin. We also grab some bamboo cans available in the market here, priced at around Rs 200-Rs 300 per tin.”

The menu at Uppal’s Orchid has hot and sour soup (with bamboo shoots) at Rs 220, Chicken Bamboo shoots at Rs 425, Bamboo shoot blended with mushrooms and black beans at Rs 395, for the desserts and Thai dishes at Rs 245, where bamboo shoots are sometimes used to flavour them. “You can call them reasonably priced for the taste they provide,” he added. As the food in North-East is less spicy compared to the rest of the country, bamboo shoots have always been used a great deal in the cuisine. The ‘Khorisa,'(fermented bamboo shoots mixed with mustard oil, salt, onion and chilly), with strong aroma and sour taste is a hot favourite in Assam and mostly consumed as chutney. It is quite a treat when mixed with fish, paneer, pickles and vegetables. ‘Poita bhat with mitha tel and khorisa’ (fermented rice with mustard oil and bamboo shoots) is a popular traditional dish, which the natives consume very frequently in the summers. In Nagaland, pork bamboo shoot is a favourite and the most common food in the region. Known as ‘Tama’ in Sikkim, the shoots are taken in a special curry form with rice and also fermented as a ‘pickle’ spiced with ‘dallae’, the local hot red chilies. The delicious ‘pork or chicken bamboo shoot curry’ is a festive dish for the people of Meghalaya.

The food outlets in the capital allow one to sample most of these delicacies. Apart from the star hotels, a number of stalls at ‘Dilli Haat’, that delightful ethnic marketplace, have people flocking to sample the variety of delicacies on offer. At the Assam stall, ‘Khorisa’ is served with fish curry and rice priced just at Rs 100. “‘Khorisa’ is brought directly from Assam. For adding to other dishes like ‘Chicken bamboo shoot’ priced at Rs 150 and vegetarian dishes priced at Rs 80, we buy the bamboo shoots from the local market here,” Mr Rajen, the stall manager said.

The Nagaland stall offers the Pork bamboo shoot, prepared simply by boiling and garnishing the pork with garlic, ginger, chilly and yam leaves. Prepared sans oil, it is priced at Rs 90. “Bamboo shoots are brought from Nagaland to make the recipes. It has a different taste,” Mr Arvind, the manager of the stall said. “Eromba”, bamboo shoot blended with dry fish, potato, salt and chillies is served at the Manipur stall. This chutney costs just Rs 20 and goes well with any food item.

“I come here frequently with my friends to have Eromba. I simply love the way they prepare it here, which makes me feel like I am back home in Imphal,” said David Thongbam, pursuing a bachelors degree from Delhi University.

Taking its growing adoration into account, it looks like the bamboo shoot has finally arrived and why not, considering that it enamors the senses with the flavours and smells typical of an exotic land where eating means much more than just indulging your stomach.

Priyanka Sharma