GUWAHATI, Nov 20 (PTI): The north-eastern states, known for its diverse tribes and traditions, also have varied cuisines to offer, and restaurateurs from the region have made a mark for themselves in the national capital by recreating these flavours for the connoisseurs of food.
Several eateries have come up across New Delhi that serve delicacies with trademark northeast spices and herbs like bamboo-shoot and ‘akhone’, as well as the staple meats.
“We started in 2015 and it was more like a hole-in-the-wall kind of a venture then. But eight years on, we are now in a bigger location and doing good business,” said Mutum Ashok, co-owner of a Manipuri restaurant.
In the initial days, the crowd was mostly confined to people from the north-east, but positive word of mouth for the food slowly started attracting people from different places, he said.
“Our USP has been the simple, home-cooked food that we serve. Our ingredients are sourced from Manipur. People love the unique flavours and our staple dishes of pork, chicken and fish,” Ashok said.
A restaurateur from Nagaland, Rocila Patton, said: “People know that our food is healthy, as it does not involve too much oil and frying. We have regular customers from our region and also a lot of foreigners, especially those working with different embassies.”
The growing number of restaurants offering cuisines from the north-east has also led to increasing competition, said Rubi Brahma, who runs an eatery specialising in food from Assam.
“Competition is a challenge. One needs to constantly understand the preferences of the customers and evolve, while keeping the unique taste of the dishes intact.”
“I try to have a special weekend menu, and it has always found favour with my patrons,” she said.
Ingredients are vital for recreating these flavours, and Ashok, Patton and Brahma have a specialised supply chain for ensuring that the vegetables, herbs and spices are sourced in an authentic manner.
Such eateries in the national capital now store some of the ingredients for emergency supplies, though the restaurateurs prefer to route those from their home states to meet the regular requirements.
The owners mostly double up as chefs and are self-trained.
“I more often than not cook myself, and have also been training people under me who fill in when I am not around. It’s not just people from north-east who come to work for us, we have employees from across the country.”
“We have managed to withstand the difficult times of lockdown. Our business has grown over time. And, we hope to be able to continue presenting flavours from home to people across the world,” Brahma said.
“Most of us are first-generation entrepreneurs, that too in a place away from home. We do face difficulties in getting requisite government permissions, as there is no clarity on what approvals we need. A single-window clearance system will help people like us,” Ashok added.