Strawberry Eclair at Bread Cafe
(Reposting from my personal blog- originally posted on December 9, 2010)
 
It has been a while since I have written about my gustatory adventures, partly because I feel guilty to be pigging out all alone on most of my trips. Alone, sometimes by default, at other times by choice. It is better to have no company at all than have the non-adventurous kinds looking for fish-rice in all terrains. I abhor eating out with my boss, a non-bong who loves bong food and expects me to hunt down bengali food joints for him. Except for Mondays, Mondays we hunt down Shiv temples and he eats veg food. Moving on..
 
I happened to visit the Autumn Fest last month, held near the Umiam Lake, complete with wine stalls and tribal food stalls and a barbecue counter, in addition to fashion shows and live rock shows. I had left my fish-rice eating 
colleague behind and come out alone for the fest, slightly apprehensive if it was a good idea taking the 2 hour ride alone. Apprehensions were quickly put to rest as I reached the lake to find throngs of people, not rowdy metalheads but people with families. As far as the wine tasting goes, I could not muster enough muscle to push my way to the counters. The Khasis certainly take their drink very seriously. Defeated, I sniffed my way to the barbecue counter and ordered for spare ribs, which was served with toasted bread roll and salsa. I noticed the Mizo stall and dared to try the Mizo black pudding (a variety of of blood sausage) just for the heck of it. Diced maroonish coins served with chopped onions, lime juice and green chillies, tasted somewhat like bone marrow, nothing spectacular but not offensive either. And I got some Putharo with Doh Jem, basically meant rice cakes with chopped and fried spicy pork liver. Eventually I felt guilty of ignoring the cultural side of the fest, so I hung around to click some pictures at the fashion shows, there was one for kids, another one for traditional khasi fashion and then one with clothes made from eco-friendly fabric. I was there for about an hour, guess that was a lot of eating I did in an hour’s time.

Putharo and other snacks 

 
Back in Shillong, I got tired of making my own coffee in the guest house (the caretaker apparently fled few months back). So I discovered this place called Bread Cafe at Police Bazar, the city’s shopping hub. The ten minute walk in the sun for my black coffee and eclair soon became a pleasurable routine activity. I often carried a book to my favorite table next to the window, and sometimes ordered a hot dog as brunch.
 
Jadoh and Dohneiiong

One morning I reached bread cafe too early, they had not opened yet and I was hungry. I walked into the cosy chinese eatery I had noticed bang opposite the cafe, Wong Garden. At 9:30 in the morning, they served me a main course meal of pork with bamboo shoots and vegetables with rice. Simple yet extremely flavourful. They use a certain variety of rice called Jowai rice, which is short grained and very aromatic. Tastes great with those bland Chinese gravies. Unfortunately it is sparingly available commercially because the farmers produce just enough rice to feed themselves and only the meager surplus is sold outside. 

Pumaloi
In my subsequent days that I spent in Shillong, I discovered several places to find good Khasi food. One outlet simply called Jadoh (which literally means rice cooked in pork fat) opened up in Laitumkhrah just near the Don Bosco School. It is the only seemingly clean decent place in the town that serves Khasi food, I often picked up Jadoh and smoked pork with fermented fish and fermented soy chutney, and a couple of my favorite Putharos. However, I was still hunting for something called Pumaloi , a snack I had had at one of my meetings at one of the government offices. It was a mild tasting rice cake that looked like idli and was topped with grated coconut, tasted simple and delicious. Somehow my hunt for Pumaloi was the longest. Eventually it ended at one of the Jadoh stalls in Lower Lauchemiere in the vicinity of the PHED, tourism and other departmental offices. 
 
Of course, there were days when I had to comply to public demand and be non-adventurous. Those were days we headed to Cafe Shillong in Laitkhumrah again. Its a regular cool musicians cafe with good continental food, steaks and mash and the likes, and most importantly, free wifi. They serve good mountain tea in really fancy teapots. Apart from Shillong, Meghalaya offers picturesque places like Cherrapunji, Mawphlang (sacred groves) and Mawlynnong, dubbed Asia’s cleanest village by National Geographic. I took a beautiful 5 hour trek called the David Scott trail which was by far my most scenic experience in Meghalaya. 
 
Please note the pictures of Khasi food were not taken by me. They have been drawn from the internet because I felt it would be silly to just write about them without any reference photographs. In fact it never occurred to me that I would be writing so passionately about the regional cuisine someday and hence, in all those days I spent hogging, I never bothered to take food pictures.   
The David Scott Trail
 
Integral Components of Khasi cuisine:
 
‘Jadoh‘ which is red hill rice cooked with pork /chicken liver and is something similar to biryani.
 ‘Jastem‘ is plain hill rice cooked with pork gravy, onions, ginger and turmeric thus giving it a characteristic yellow colour.
 ‘Mylliem chicken‘ is famous in these parts and gets its name from the vil1age where it was first prepared The chicken is cooked with different condiments, most notably, the small round Khasi peppers which gives distinctive taste and flavour.
 ‘Dohkhlieh‘ is a type of pork salad made with boiled pork and onions with a sprinkling of chillies as desired.
Doh Jem : is a pork dish made out of Black sesame seeds and Pork belly fat. It is cooked with onions, bay leaves, fresh ginger & garlic paste. 
‘Dohneiiong‘ is another pork dish. This dish has gravy and is made with black sesame seeds to give it its dark texture.
“Syrwa doh sniang” is pork stew prepared with mustard leaves and/or potatoes. Pepper, garlic, onions and ginger is used for flavour.
“Syrwa doh masi” is beef stew cooked along with vegetables like potatoes, cabbage, turnip, carrots  etc. Black  pepper, garlic, onions and ginger is used for flavour.
 The fermented soyabean in this region is ‘Tungrymbai’. It has a strong odour and is very popular especially during the winter season as an integral part of Khasi food.
 Tungtap: A chutney made out of dry fish (indian anchovy), onion, garlic,turmeric, red round chillies, tomatoes fried in mustard oil. It has a sharp pungent smell. This chutney goes well with  Syrwa (either pork or beef stew)
 Different types of rice ‘pancakes’ are also popular.
 ‘Pumaloi’ is powdered rice which is steamed in earthern pots called ‘Khiew Ranei’. ‘
‘ Pukhlein‘ is powdered rice mixed with jaggery which is then deep fried.
 ‘Pudoh‘ is plain powdered rice stuffed with small pieces of pork and steamed. ‘Putharo’ is again plain powdered rice steamed
Mawphlang Sacred Groves 

 
                                                                  
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