Eating Nagaland | Homemade Traditional Naga Cuisine

Homemade food in Dimapur Nagaland

Discovering Nagaland through a Traditional Naga Meal with the Sweetest Naga Family from the Sumi Tribe.

Silkworms, Snails, Axone (fermented soybean), Bamboo Shoots, Purple and Black Rice, Raja Mirchi, Wild Tomatoes, Spring Garlic, Wormwood Herb, Mothi (local Sichuan pepper), Dried Napa (Elsholtzia blanda – dry herb with lemongrass fragrance) and variety of Fish and Meats, my visit to Dimapur’s New Market with my friend Louis, got me acquainted to essentials of Naga foods.

The story goes like this – Vasai Vibes, our video about East Indian Cuisine at my friends Beryl’s home in Vasai, was up on our YouTube channel. Shamelessly, I had shared it with Louis Zhimomi Achumi, and asked her to share her thoughts on it.

A trained chef, Louis runs her culinary school in Dimapur, Nagaland. I remember spending quick harmless-cribbing sessions with her in the changing room of the hotel, where we were training together. Our love for food and harmless-cribbing brought us closer to each other. She taught me how to take a selfie and I started planning my lunch breaks around the same time as hers. And, in between those crazy working hours, we became friends.

So, when I had shared the link of my Vasai video with her, in my heart I was hoping, that she would be game to make a similar video about Naga Food that she eats at her home. I lucked out and she agreed to be a part of Homemade in India series for Eatstory’s YouTube Channel.

Dimapur became my second destination for my North East India trip. And, after spending awesome time in Assam, Gurjas and I boarded the early morning Shatabdi from Dibrugarh and experienced a beautiful picturesque train journey on our way to Dimapur.

Louis, being the sweetest host ever, came to the Railway Station to pick us. And, we reached her beautiful home to be welcomed by her lovely family. Her parents- Shikaho & Vihuli Zhimomi and siblings – Likivi, Ikato, Edna and niece Tivona everyone happily entertained my umpteen queries about Naga food, 16 different Naga Tribes (they belong to Sumi Tribe) and culture. Well, Edna and Tivona were just cute little girls who played with me, while the food was being prepared.

The aroma from their exquisite spacious home kitchen was enchanting. The wide space was well lit. It was full of traditional utensils (it had no mixer or blender) and had a unique wood-fire chulah, above which I saw a hanging wrack high above the flames, where the pre-boiled pieces of pork and deer were slowly being roasted and smoked.  

While that was happening, Vihuli Aunty smoked wild tomatoes and raja mirchi (by placing it over a burning charcoal in the chulah), for the chutney she was preparing. She peeled the skin of both the ingredients and crushed it coarsely in a wooden pestle. Very nonchalantly, she asked Louis to bring spring garlic. Louis got up immediately and went downstairs to her kitchen garden and plucked some spring garlic for the chutney.

And guess what? – Just like the Spring Garlic – Pork, Fish, Herbs, Bok Choy, Axone so many more ingredients used for the meal were organic and homegrown. With Cabbages, Cauliflower, Carrots, Chilies and Tomatoes, their kitchen garden was full of seasonal vegetables. They had a Fish Pond, Wooden Pig Trough and Chicken – all home bred. With a Water Reservoir and Open fields, their house was self-sustainable. It is here, that I had the ‘luxury’ to indulge in a sweet juicy Fig, right after plucking it from the tree.

Oh the joy of meeting my friend and her family was amplified with exotic food and beautiful peaceful surroundings, which was completely different from the bustling city roads of Dimapur.

Here’s what we ate:

Smoked Pork with Axone

Smoked Pork with Axone - Naga Dish
Smoked Pork with Axone – Homemade Naga Dish

A quintessential dish in a traditional Naga Meal, a sumi tribe specialty, this stew has a funky flavour from the axone (fermented soyabean product). Axone (pronounced Akhuni) is prepared after boiling the beans, fermenting them at least for a week and then smashing it before covering it in a banana leaf. The stew is made of Axone, Chilies, Tomato, Salt and water. Add thoroughly cleaned Smoked Pork into it and let it cook slowly on wood-fire. Once the stew is almost cooked, add coarsely chopped ginger and let it simmer for a minute. The fattiness in the stew comes from the pork fat and it tastes heavenly when paired with rice.

Fish with Bamboo Shoot

Fish with Bamboo Shoot - Naga Cuisine
Fish with Bamboo Shoot – Naga Cuisine

One of the characteristic ingredients of Naga Cuisine (besides Axone) is Bamboo Shoot. I found it at most places in the market. For this dish, there were Fish fillets boiled in water along with Onions, Tomatoes, Fermented Bamboo Shoots, Green Chilies and Salt, until the entire water evaporated and tomatoes became soft. It was healthy, yummy and I loved the fact that I was able to enjoy the striking flavour of the fish.


Ayikibe - Naga Food- Dimapur
Ayikibe – Naga Food- Dimapur

Colocasia boiled, mashed and mixed with indigenous fresh sour herbaceous leaves. I was told that the dish can be made with mustard leaves, but this time it was made with sour leaves. It was sticky, with very little salt and had very little water content, thus, making it mild in taste. And, as its flavours are mild, it is, usually, eaten along with spicy or hot Non-Veg stews and curries. And it surely adds richness and creaminess to the overall taste of your bite full of rice-curry-meat.

Wild Tomato and Raja Mirchi Chutney

Wild Tomato and Raja Mirchi Chutney - Dimapur
Wild Tomato and Raja Mirchi Chutney – Dimapur

By placing Wild Tomatoes and Raja Mirchi over a burning charcoal, one needs to roast them nicely. In a Wooden Pestle, crush roughly chopped Hot Ginger, Roasted Raja Mirchi and salt. Peel the skin of roasted wild tomato and put it in the mix and crush it gently. Final step, add roughly chopped Spring Garlic and smash it a little bit before mixing it all together. Enjoy the piquant flavour of this delicious chutney.

Venison – Deer Meat

Venison - Deer Meat - Traditional Naga Food
Venison – Deer Meat – Traditional Naga Food

And, for the very first time, I got to eat Deer meat. Again, the dish was boiled to perfection. Deer meat was prepared with green ginger leaves, garlic cloves, spring onion, chilies, roughly smashed ginger and salt. The meat had mutton-like texture and the ginger leaves gave the dish, a distinct flavour to the meat. This was unique, exquisite and I was thrilled to eat dishes that I normally don’t get to eat or have access to.

Local Rice I enjoyed eating all the dishes along with local red rice. We also had deep fried sticky sweet rice cake (similar to Tel Peetha in Assam but this one wasn’t too sweet) along with green tea to recover from the food coma. The rice cake was supremely crunchy on the outside and gooey and sticky inside. Vihuli Aunty told me, that one could also make them into savoury cakes.

As we sipped on the soothing Green Tea, Louis and Shikaho Uncle passionately spoke about Pork and how, in Nagaland, locals mostly love to eat it for all three meals in a day. While I don’t eat Pork so often in Delhi (understandably so), I loved having all Pork dishes when I was in the North East India. Especially, when it was home cooked. Louis had also made terrific Chicken with Bok Choy and Aloo Matar, in case we didn’t like the traditional fair. While I loved having the chicken, I gave Aloo Matar a pass.

My learnings from this meal?

Most of the food was boiled (I didn’t even see an oil container in their kitchen) and sans and heavy usage of spices (there’s no masala), retaining the actual flavour of the few main ingredients and letting it shine. Predominantly, it was herbaceous (they used ginger leaves, mustard leaves and few indigenous herbs), smokey, nutty and at times, hot. It was just few techniques plus ingredients, which were cooked and clubbed together brilliantly, making ‘minimalism’, shine through each dish.

And, I could have never enjoyed this meal had it not been prepared with as much love, as Louis and her Family had put into it. This was a good time with a good friend over a good meal. I must share, I’ve been to Dimapur many times in the past, however, only this time I felt, like I truly saw Dimapur.


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