5 Authentic East Indian Food to Try

India is a diverse country, with a dynamic culinary heritage and ancestry. The Indian style of cooking is not restricted to one method – rather it is an assorted style where multiple techniques and tools are used to make elaborate smorgasbord. While in one corner of the country tandoori or barbeque style cooking is popular, or the other side steaming is the preferred method of cooking.

The Indian dishes, especially the East Indian food, are mostly influenced by the availability of ingredients, soil type, climate, and socio-political environment. Apart from that, religion and cultural influences play a big role in shaping the platter. East India comprises of West Bengal, Assam and the North-Eastern states, and Sikkim. The area is covered in mountains and hills and receives a heavy amount of rainfall.

Due to its wet climate, the area is endowed in greenery and vegetation. Probably, that is the reason why most recipes of the area contain lots of greens. But the East Indians love their meats and fishes too. Also, due to the geographical proximity of the region to Mongolia and China, the cuisine of Eastern Indian bears strong influences from these areas as well.      

Main Ingredients for East Indian Food

Staples and Style of Cooking

The East Indian food is mostly divided into three houses – the Oriya style of cooking, Bengali and Assamese style, and the rest of Northeast India. The preparations are usually simple but have strong flavors – mostly due to the usage of fresh coriander and ground spices. Steaming, stir-frying, and slow cooking is the usual method of cooking in the region.   

The region is endowed with big or small rivers, making fish an important staple for the people of the region. However, in the hinterlands, pork is preferred by many. Rice is the main staple of the region. The gorgeous white rice is plated with colorful vegetable stew or jhol.

The East Indian food is traditionally made in mustard oil, but now most urban settlers have opted for healthier alternatives. Apart from that, some common ingredients used in the area are chilies (both dry and fresh), mustard seeds, and a five-spice mix containing onion seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, white cumin seeds, and fenugreek seeds.     

Also, the region produces some of the biggest collection of sweets and desserts. Some of the world-renowned Indian desserts come from the given.

Here is the list of the authentic East Indian food one should try while touring the region:

1. Machcher Jhol

Found in West Bengal, Assam, and Odisha

What is it? – Curried fish gravy made with spices. Occasionally, vegetables are also used.

Served with rice

Macher Jhol is a staple East Indian food and usually made in the Bengali and Assamese households. The dish is rich in nutrients and taste and is very easy to make. In most East Indian households, the fresh piece is cut into desired pieces and marinated with spices. Later, the fish is lightly braised and dipped in the gravy made with spices, onions, and choices of vegetables.    

Most East Indian prefers their Maacher Jhol with rice and a piece of lemon on the side. Just add the rich gravy into the white rice and squeeze a bit of lemon juice on it, and mix the entire thing with your hands. Carefully remove the bones of your fish, and take the morsel of rice and fish.

2. Dalma

Found in Odisha

What is it? – A lentil stew made with vegetables  

Served with rice or roti (Indian flatbread)

Dalma is a traditional Odisha recipe, made with split chickpeas and a mix of vegetables. Being loaded with vitamins and other nutrients, Dalma is a perfect dish for people who like eating healthy. The flavorful spices and usage of fresh green chilies give this dish a distinct taste.

Although most households have some variation in the Dalma recipe, the key ingredients – split chickpeas, potatoes, and raw papaya – remains the same. In coastal regions of Odisha coconut is usually used, whereas in the rest of the state a five-spice mix gives Dalma its distinct taste.

3. Momos

Found in North Eastern States of India and Sikkim

What is it? - Dumplings

Served as a side to the entrée

A popular East Indian food – the Momo – is the staple of the hilly northeastern region. The gorgeous dumplings made with ground meat and vegetable filling is liked by locals and the tourists alike. In the traditional recipe, dumplings were steamed and served with a clear broth. However, with time new innovative recipes have emerged. But the presence of an extra spicy dipping sauce is omnipresent in all these recipes.

It is believed that the dish came to India with the Tibetan Diaspora and Nepalese (who came here to work). Momos are available in varied shapes, including the ever-popular half-moon shape or conical shape.     

4. Rosgulla

Found in West Bengal and Odisha

What is it? Cottage cheese balls dipped in sugar syrup

Served as dessert

The list of popular East Indian food would not be complete without the most recognized Indian sweet – Rosgulla. Made with small dumplings of cheena or cottage cheese and semolina cooked in a sugar syrup the dessert is a cult favorite. The dish originated in Eastern India.

In the traditional Rosgulla recipe, the cottage cheese and semolina dumplings are simmered into the sugar syrup. It is done till the syrup seeps into the dumplings, making it soft and gooey. During winters, special variants of Rosgulla are made with freshly extracted date syrup – giving it an earthy texture and aroma. Remember, the India trip is never complete without sampling one or two Rosgulla.

5. Til Pitha     

Found in Assam

What is it? Rice cakes with candied sesame seeds  

Served as snacks or Jolpan 

Til Pitha is an important sweet snack, made during important festive seasons. The sesame and rice cake are often served in an elaborate platter, accompanied by other snacks and savories. Soft chewy outer covering stuffed with sweet fillings, makes a delightful combination – a guilty pleasure for many. Usually made during Bihu – the harvest festival of Assam – Til Pitha uses ingredients available during the time.        

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