By Preana Chettri
Quietly inhabiting spaces in Shillong are different cuisines. Amid the political chatter on ‘belonging’, food continues to travel in plates and bowls. The rising popularity of North Indian cuisine is evident in how people have been experimenting with their food to create unique dishes.
The Shillong-based Inequale Food Hub, near Don Bosco in Laitumkhrah, has already made its presence felt in the capital of Meghalaya.
Nothing in the world can beat the taste of ghar ka khana. This is one of the reasons behind the increased demand for Indian cuisine-based restaurants in the state. The Mughal Kitchen, Nongrimbah, is known for its delicious North Indian dishes.
Then there is Qzine in Police Bazaar. The staff use the imagery of the ocean (‘Captain’/ ‘Co-Captain’) when they address each other; quite fitting because people carry within them, spices and unique methods of preparations.
Located in Laitkor is Stella, run by Ibadari K Warjri. Her travels have informed her taste buds; one only needs to see their menu.
They spoke about their journey in the industry, including how different cuisines travel with people who migrate to the city.
Mughal Kitchen says it’s a place for all the food buffs out there. Despite Chinese cuisine becoming increasingly ubiquitous, North Indian food is making its way to the plates of foodies around the world, feels Jasmine, the chef.
In the book “India on My Platter”, she depicts her epic journey in search of various nuances of local cuisines from rural backwaters and barren deserts to freezing mountains. India is described as unity in diversity for a reason.”
“Indian food has made a mark on the global map. We all know how Chinese food is the second favourite after the native cuisine, but it’s great to say that North – Indian dishes have become very popular,” Jasmine adds.
Inequale Food Hub has been in the hospitality industry for quite some time. Having a rich experience, the team started their restaurant in 2019. Observing the potential of North-Indian cuisine in Shillong, they decided upon the nostalgic flavours from the northern part of India.
Their menu boasts a lot of original takes on traditional dishes. “During our journey and travels, we have experienced that the heart of cooking across the world is the same. All you have to do is cook with love and passion.”
Located in the heart of the city, Qzine, on the other hand, claims to be “the best restaurant for both non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes”.
Just picture this: a coexistence of rich aromatic gravies with spicy vegetables and stir-fries, along with tender, slow-cooked meat. The availability of a plethora of spices makes the cuisine vibrant and colourful. And that’s exactly what this hub offers.
Are you drooling, like I am?
Speaking to the senior captain of the ship, Qzine, Sushant Das, felt there was a need for fresh food content. “Compared to other cuisines of India, North Indian food is richer – several preparations are made in pure desi ghee or doused in fresh cream. The world-famous Butter Chicken is the perfect case in point.”
“Once you take a bite, you’re in for a gastronomic joyride. And the best part? You also have simple, comfort food such as Dal Tadka and Rajma-Chawal, to name a few, which hold a favourite spot in most people’s hearts,” he says.
For Warjri, tourism has boosted a vibrant café culture in the city. Having lived outside the city for quite a long time, she brought back home her favourite North-Indian recipes.
“I, a Chinese food lover, lived in a mixed community, the reason I get excited when it comes to North Indian cuisine. I had spent more than a decade in North India. Being a big foodie and a traveller, I experimented with different authentic cuisines. I realised how much potential and demand we have for this cuisine in Shillong.’’
On returning to the city, she made a concrete plan to open a food joint and serve people “something different”.
She says, “Technology has a big role to play where acceptance of migration is concerned. People love to dine out, as I’ve seen in Shillong.”
Each of the Indian states has its own flavour and food culture. Even the taste of a single dish, to say Biryani, as per Inequale, is different. “Bengal, for instance, uses Panch Phoran excessively, just like garam masala is added to every curry in North Indian kitchens. That defines the different tastes of a dish in different regions. The idea of connecting food with taste is not just limited to recipes, but how different geographical spaces and existing food cultures live and experiment with food. We’ve tried to actualise what we’ve experienced.”
We spoke of the migration of cultures and how it shapes the food topography in Shillong.
“Globalisation and migrations have led to an increase in cultural diversity in most countries in the world. One thing is for sure, sharing norms and adapting habits is for everyone. Food, therefore, is no different.”
(The writer is a digital content producer with The Meghalayan)