Meghalaya is one of the most underrated states, when food is discussed. In fact, it has witnessed many layers of migration. Pnars, Khasis and Garos are believed to be one of the earliest settlers of the North East India. Garos are related to the Bodos from Assam, wherein the rest two are related to the Mon-Khmer family. Khasis and Pnars were very good in trading and their influence was spread from the hills to the present day Sylhet in Bangladesh. This blogpost is an attempt to check the culinary diversity of Meghalaya. Capital of Meghalaya is Shillong, and it’s just a short flight away from Kolkata. Daily flights are available and even if you don’t get one, it’s just 2 hours scenic drive from Guwahati- capital of Assam.
There are two primary tribes in Meghalaya- in terms of culinary excellence… Khasi and Garo. Whereas Khasis cuisine is definitely dominant, Garo food is quite rare to find- in commercial eateries. Basically, in Meghalaya cuisine, meat and rice form the staple diet. Breeding of pigs is quite common, and hence, pork is one of the most loved meat, despite a heavy usage of chicken and dry fish. As cattle farming is quite rare, use of milk, or milk based products are not that common.
Meat is mainly smoked- the idea is to preserve it and to give that typical aroma. In the Meghalaya food, wild herbs and fruits are mainly used as flavoring agent and other Indian spices (like jeera, Dhania) are rarely used. And this differentiates the aroma of the food in Meghalaya from the rest of India.
Shillong has multiple hotels and B&B, suiting different budgets. But if you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, you can try Woodstock Farmhouse B&B. We stayed there, and is definitely recommended.
A walk in Mylliem
Okay, now if you drive just 10 min from this Woodstock Farmhouse, you’ll come across to a small sleepy village named Mylliem. And this is a goldmine for a very specific dish, named Doh Thad and Doh Snam. Doh means meat and Doh Thad is probably Meghalaya’s answer to Bacon. But please beware. Mylliem is not for the faint hearted, or for the believers in veganism. Butcheries with different cuts of pork is readily seen there and numerous small shacks, or homely food joints are available.
Doh Thad is smoked pork meat fried with sliced onion and Naga Chilly. While frying the pork fat oozes out and the meat is cooked in that. It’s taken with rice and chilly chutney. While I liked it, let me warn you- it has a pretty strong aroma. In most of the places, a small serving of Tunghtap is served. It’s dry fish chutney and super strong and spicy. the efect is almost like wasabee- if you know what I mean. Doh snam, on the other hand, is Khasi blood sausage- quite popular and considered as a delicacy in Meghalaya. Pork meat and other parts, like offals/ intestine etc are made into a coarse mince and mixed with pork blood. It is then wrapped in a thin layer of pork fat and smoked. The result is quite intense and DO NOT try, until you are quite adventurous.
Khasi food in Shillong, Meghalaya
Now, if Khasi food, which is almost synonymous to local food in Shillong, is in your mind- Trattoria can and should be your destination in Shillong. Please check the location here. It’s a small restaurant, at Police Bazaar and is a local favourite. It’s mostly packed during peak hours and it’ll take some time to find a place. Tables are shared, so please do not frown, if somebody unknown comes and sits at your table. Please do not expect any fancy, and Trattoria is sure to please your taste bud. You can ask for their thali, or go for the a la carte portions.
But let me tell you something. In the entire Meghalaya, the portion size is quite small and one thali may not be enough for one super hungry soul.
the good part about Trattoria is that the owner is a friendly guy. And he understands that everybody will not understand the local dish names. So, description of the dishes are printed and framed on thee walls. Please take your time and go through the same. My suggestion would be to go for their thali. They have a variety of it. You can choose between fish, pork and egg. Jadoh is staple dish here, apart from rice. And the rice used is slightly short grained.
Now, Jadoh is an interesting dish in Meghalaya food. Before we came, we had the notion that it’s only prepared with pork blood. But, once we came, we were told that it’s not the case. Maybe it was done previously, but now it’s done with stock and lard- thus slightly moist. It has a very typical aroma and is definitely one of my favourites in my Meghalaya trip.
Bengali restaurant in Shillong
But it may happen that everybody is not really fond of the local Khasi cuisine. After whatever I say, they do have a strong aroma, which is an acquired one. This may be due to their use of herbs, but it’s not our regular taste. But in Pollice Bazaar only (which is the shopping central in Shillong), there is Baba Hotel– which is a favourite for Bengali and North Indian food. Please check the location here.
It’s definitely a tourist favourite and serves a variety of Bengali fish delicacies and vegetarian delicacies. while the taste is more prone towards the Assamese style of cooking, it’s definitely a saviour. The pricing is not really very pocket-friendly, but considering the position and portion size, it’s quite recommended. I mean, for a Bengali or North Indian tourist, you get a decent meal at 500/- for 2 persons- what else do you need?
Garo food in Shillong
And if you are looking for Garo home cooked food, please check our video there… As I said earlier, Garo Food is not something very common. But with the help of our friend Kaustav da, we found one Garo homechef, whio cooked one of the best meal during our Meghalaya trip. Now, garo cuisine uses one strange ingredient. They use kind of Potash in their curries. They burn the banana plantains and soak the ash in water to extract the soda from it. and it’s used heavily in their meat and curries.
the name of the homechef is Lessitta Elwin and she can prepare some super tasty Garo food on pre-order. You can reach her at 9436100411 / 9485175830. We were invited over dinner and she cooked 3 dishes for us, apart from the staple- steamed rice.
- Nakham: Dry fish with mocha/ banana flower
- Chicken with Kalai/ Arhar Dal and
- Pork with Galda/ Sorrel leaves
If you ask me, Nakham was the showstopper. The typical smell of dry fish was neutralized with the banana flower and paired with hot steamed rice, it was heaven. Pork with Galda, or sorrel leaves was interesting. I’ve tasted this pungent leaves during my trip to Hyderabad. And this shows how food binds us all. Something very local in Telengala in south India is used abundantly in Meghalaya- and that probably is the beauty of India.
Do save one of your meals at Shillong for this Garo Homechef- she’s definitely definitely recommended. Do check our video here for a detailed experience and recipe of the two garo dishes. Oops, I must tell you- both the Chicken and Pork were cooked without a drop of oil.
Breakfast market walk in Shillong
No culinary trip is complete without a walk in the local market. And Lewdah market, or Burra Bazaar as its commonly known, is a foodie’s paradise. Do check the location here on Google map. You’ll see various dry fish being sold here- with price ranging from 80/- a kg to 500/- a kg. Do take a walk and you won’t be disappointed.
But please do not forget to check the huge variety of rice cakes found in the market. It’s made mostly for the locals and hence, the pricing is quite cheap. Do check the below video for a detailed virtual walkthrough.
In fact, once in the market, you can definitely check the local breakfast spread. Many of these humble joints are there in the city, catering to the locals and is a must try for breakfasts. In the meal, Jadoh is staple. “Ja” means rice and “Doh” means meat. They take 2 types of accompaniments with it- one is Doh jem= pork intestines cooked with local spices and “Doh Sniang”= one fatty pork piece curry, cooked with local spices. tungtap (a super spicy dry fish chutney) is pretty standard accompaniment and once you get used to it- takes the meal to a whole different level. A full platter with Jadoh+ doh jem/ doh sniang+ Tungtap costs around 60/-. Doh Kha is the name of the fish soup. Rohu pieces and cooked into a stock with leafy greens. The taste is similar to our Kolkata Chinese Fish soup and the price for a portion of Doh Kha is 50/- per plate.
Local cafe in Shillong Police Bazaar- Pa’s
While we were having a short walk in the Police Bazaar in Shillong, we came across this small joint named Pa’s. Though it’s named as a cafe, along with tea and coffee, local delicacies are also served here. And bingo, the pricing is quite reasonable as compared to the tourist favourite Trattoria. the setup is clean and minimalistic, with nice interior. Definitely recommended.
So, with tea, we served 2 types of meat balls. One was beef meat ball and the other is fish meat ball. Now, this was the first time, I had beef in Shillong. I forgot the names- but owners were quite friendly to explain the dishes.
Now, along with this non-descriptive Pa’s Cafe, there are numerous other cafes (and very good ones) like Dylan’s Cafe, or ML05 Cafe (a biker’s cafe on the way to cherrapunji). Do check about them below.
If you are interested to taste some Naga cuisine at Shillong, do check the Achi’s Kitchen… Check their address here…
And finally Cherrapunji…
A drive from Shillong to Cherrapunji takea about 2.5-3 hours- depending upon the traffic. And once you start, a meal at one of the numerous roadside shacks. The menu is more or less similar. they serve Maggi (obviously) and pork or chicken thali. they consist of rice+ Dal+ Salad+ a local vegetable of the day and dry meat curry. On request, you can have some chilly chutney, but taste at your own risk. the taste is pretty average- I mean, what can go wrong, if the local organic produces are cooked home styled… But do taste the super juicy sweet pineapples, whenever you can lay your hand on them. Sprinkle some rock salt and chilly flakes and you are simply good to go. Oops, one slice of gondhoraj lemon is always served along with the meal.
I must say something. though Shillong is the capital, if you actually want to enjoy the beauty of Meghalaya, come to Cherrapunji. It’s just mind blowing. You’ll have a breath of fresh air and will enjoy silence… Cafe Cherrapunji is one of the most recommended cafes there. And it’s picture perfect. Looks like, it has come straight out of a British tale and you’d love to relax there with your favourite brew.
Now regarding food, I have a mixed feeling. While the food taste was very very good, service is quite bad. I don’t know, whether it was a bad day or what, but the service at Cafe Cherrapunji is quite below average. But what the heck? The Fried chicken Wings was amazing and so was the dry Chilly Chicken. If you have time in hand, this place is definitely recommended.
In Cherrapunji, we were hosted at Polo Orchid Resort and definitely, it is one of the best properties, that I’ve ever stayed at. The infinitely pool, facing the Seven sister Falls, is the centre of attraction and the pool side bar is quite well stacked. In fact, the rooms are quite spacious and most of them come with balconies facing the Seven Sister Falls. It’s a bit pricey, but when did luxury come cheap?
Do check our experience at Hotel Polo Orchid Resort, Cherrapunji… And check their details here
All in all, Meghalaya is a great place to travellers. If you love solitude, Cherrapunji is THE place and for some interesting food, Shillong is the place to be. We were hosted by the Polo Group of hotels and I must thank them for the great hospitality.
I’ll go back to Meghalaya again and this blogpost will be updated in future. Meanwhile, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org