It is a cliché saying that India is a land of unity in diversity. Different cultures and religions in our country gave rise to several unique food habits as well. Rice is the staple food in some regions, and wheat forms the staple diet in other regions. Moving across the country, there are certain food items that make us cringe or crease our eyebrows. The unusual ingredients of some weird food items make us wonder how people eat such things! But what is detestable for some people may be a delicacy for some others. Let us see some of the bizarre food items in India that are relished by some communities.
1. Red Ant Chutney
We Indians love chutneys of all types. We make chutneys with chilies, onions, tomatoes, and practically every vegetable. There are chutneys even with dried fish or prawns. There is one chutney that may make you stand on your toes. A chutney made with ants! This is a delicacy popular with tribal communities in many parts of India. In Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, they call it Chapra. For making this chutney, they use only red ants that make nests in the leaves of trees. Preparing a red ant chutney is not an easy task. First step is to climb the trees and collect the ant nest. Needless to say, you get bitten from head to toe in the process.
After collecting the ants, crush them along with their eggs, and a few other ingredients such as onions, chilies, or tomatoes. These ingredients vary from region to region. Tribal communities of Kasaragod in Kerala also prepare red ants chutney. They add only bird’s eye chilies and salt as the additional ingredients. Tribal people believe that this chutney has many health benefits. They endure the pain of ant bites during the entire process, as the chutney is tasty and nutritious according to them! If you wish to taste the chutney, a word of caution. This chutney is sour, as the ants have acid secretions in their body.
2. Phan Pyut
Potatoes, don’t we all love them? We can make fries, curries, tikkies and all sorts of dishes with potatoes. But we are talking about normal or good potatoes. How about a dish with rotten potatoes? Don’t screw up your face yet. One of the bizarre food items in India uses rotten potatoes. Phan pyut is a dish made with rotten potatoes, and is quite popular in the north-eastern parts of India. Instead of consuming fresh potatoes, the people of this region allow them to rot in the soil. They cook these rotten potatoes with spices, just like any other vegetable! If this is a delicacy that many people prefer, then it must not be as utterly disgusting as we think. So keep your minds and mouths open to all tastes.
3. Eri Polu
Silkworms give us the dazzling cloth, silk. What else do they give us? Yes, they give us one of the bizarre food items in India. Eri Polu is an exotic dish for some people of Assam, and its major ingredient is nothing other than silkworm pupa. You may think of it as gross. But this is just a food item like any other. Eri Polu uses the pupae of the silkworms which are left after extracting silk from the cocoon. Extraction of silk requires boiling of the cocoons. During the process, the pupa inside will also become soft. So there is no need for much further cooking. This leftover pupa is flavored with spices and herbs, and smoked in bamboo shoots. This is how we get the exotic yet weird dish Eri Polu. This dish is a favorite of many tribal communities of Assam.
4. Dog Meat
Do you have a dog as a pet? If you have, you should better stay away from this. Dog meat is yet another one among the bizarre food items in India. We find lovers of dog meat in the states of Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. The tribal communities of these states cook dog meat in various forms. Though the rest of the country stays away from this meat, tribal communities of these states consider it a delicacy. Recently, the state government of Nagaland imposed a ban on the import or trading of dog meat. While animal rights activists are happy about the move, there are others who feel that this is not justifiable. They feel that people of these states should have the right to eat something that they have been eating for generations. Which of these groups would you join?
5. Frog legs
This one might not look like a weird food item to many from across the borders of India. But frog legs are not common in India. Like dog meat, frog leg is one of the bizarre food items in India which is surrounded by controversy. In fact, there are laws against killing of frogs and export of frog legs. These amphibians play an important role in maintaining the balance of our ecosystem. They also feed on several disease-causing insects, and thereby help humans. Nevertheless, there are some communities in India who consume dishes made from frog legs. Lepcha tribe of Sikkim consider frog legs as exotic food. They believe that frog legs are highly nutritious, and help fight against stomach ailments. Some restaurants in Goa serve frog meat under the name ‘jumping chicken.’ So be careful while ordering a ‘jumping chicken’ from the local restaurants in Goa. You might get frog meat in place of chicken!
6. Doh Khlieh
Although we may call it bizarre, Doh Khlieh is a brainy food, no less! Wait till you hear about its ingredients. Doh Khlieh is a traditional recipe of the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya. It is a minced pork salad which uses almost every part of a pig’s head. Pig head, brain, tongue, and ears are the major ingredients of Doh Khlieh. Of course, there are a few other ingredients such as onions, ginger and green chilies. There are different ways of cooking this recipe. Some people resort to other parts of pork instead of brain, but the authentic recipe uses pig brain as well. Steamed pig brain is what they use for garnishing the dish! Would you mind eating a dish garnished with brain? The choice is yours.
7. Bhang Pakode
A fried snack prepared using cannabis leaves? This is Bhang pakoda, a special dish that is common for Holi celebrations in the northern parts of India. Holi is a festival of colors. On this day, people enjoy playing with colors, or with water-filled balloons and tubs. There will be songs, dances and merry-making in streets and households. A Holi celebration is incomplete without a touch of Bhang, which is made from the leaves of cannabis. You get Lassi(sweetened yogurt), sweets, and Pakoda (fried snack) made with bhang. As you know, cannabis can be intoxicating when used in excess. Bhang Pakodas use gram flour and a few other ingredients in addition to cannabis leaves. Eat in moderation, and you will enjoy it. Eat too much, and you will zone out or experience some undesirable side-effects. However, bhang pakoda is one of the bizarre food items in India, which is intoxicating and tempting as well.
8. Snail Curry
Some of these weird food items sound really creepy, right? Well, here is one made with something wriggly and creepy. A snail on your plate! You may have eaten a few things that come with shells, such as crabs. Have you tried snail curry yet? People of Nagaland make curries with snails. Although snail dishes are not uncommon in many countries around the globe, the consumption of snail meat is not widespread in India. However, several tribal communities in Nagaland love snails. During the harvest season of paddy, they collect snails from the fields, and cook it along with pork and other ingredients. Nagas love their snail curry. Fried snail is another delicacy that uses snails. But this is not limited to Nagaland.
Till now, we saw dishes which used unusual animals or animal parts as their ingredients. Nahkham is a food with an uncanny ingredient that you would never expect. Distilled ash! Yes, the same ash that we get from burning things. It is probably the stinkiest dish in our list also. Nahkham is a dish that is popular with the Garo tribe of Meghalaya. It uses stinky dried fish along with distilled ashes and vegetables. Ashes could be obtained from burnt wood or any other burnt material. The fish that they use for this dish emits a foul smell, and this is not something that a foodie will look forward to. So if you are willing to brave the stink, you can taste ashes! Nahkham is one of the bizarre food items in India which not many people will dare to try out.
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