Indian cuisine is a beautiful blend of our culture and customs. It boasts of robust flavours, a mind blowing variety, spices and surprises. This time around, I decided to take the road less traveled and venture into the unexplored.
Welcome to the wild world of the food unknown. Let me warn you, what's about to be served is a little more than unusual. These are not your innocent everyday classics, but those that are prized for being deadly delicacies.Coming right up, the ultimate bucket list for a fearless foodie.
Frog Legs in Sikkim & Goa
This French delicacy has been pleasing the Indian palate for long. In many parts of India, there is nothing more exotic than battered and fried frog legs. The Lepchas community in Sikkim swears by their medicinal quality to cure various stomach ailments. The Indian bullfrog is also a monsoon delicacy in Goa and is famously known as the 'jumping chicken'. Although, it is recognized as a threatened species by the government of India yet you may find some restaurants serving it.
Red Ants Chutney in Chattisgarh The great Indian chutneys can make any dish come alive but with this one right here, you're guaranteed to gag. From the wilderness of Batsar in Chhattisgarh, comes a red hot chutney called chaprah. Here's a dish with a considerable bite (pun intended), a dip made with red ants and their eggs. The ants are dried and then crushed with salt, sweeteners and spices. It is so sharp and spicy that it can set your tongue on fire. Ants contain formic acid which is believed to render medicinal qualities. The local Dhuruva tribe will tell you that it's not just a dish, it's an adventure.
Tilli in Pune
The taste and aroma of this street snack from Pune takes some getting used to. Tilli essentially refers to the spleen and buffalo's spleen is quite a hit. It is marinated in mild spices and char-grilled or roasted. It has a distinct sharp taste. According to the Indian Food Blogger, Chowder Singh, "I tried tilli while in Pune and let's just say that I am not a fan. It has a somewhat rotten smell and a texture similar to that of liver." It is preferred by some non-vegetarians as spleen contains a high concentration of iron.
Hilsa Eggs in Bengal
The charm of caviar be damned for here's our very own desi version. Fleshy, kidney-shaped chunks are gently dusted with spices and tossed in mustard oil to be served as a Monsoon delicacy. It is also lightly fried and eaten as a snack. The taste of Hilsa comes from the water in which it swims and the subtle flavor is transferred to the roe.
Snail Stew and Steamed Hornets, Kohima (Nagaland)
Here's what you need to do when in Nagaland. Close your eyes, recite a short prayer and let the predator in you take charge. So what's on the menu? Vampire blood. Just kidding, but chomping over curried creepy-crawlies is worth the dare. You'll find snail stew, steamed hornet larvae and silkworm curry famously being sold on streets. The state is home to more than 15 tribes, each with its distinctive style of cooking.
Bhunni from Garhwal
This unique dish comes from the Garhwal region in Uttarakhand. It is made with goat's liver, stomach, intestines and blood. You read it! All the ingredients are curried and coupled with few spices. While I'm a bit conservative about what's put on my plate, those who've tasted blood (pun intended) find it quite appetizing.
Image Courtesy: Chowder Singh
Paya in Hyderabad and Lucknow
Paya means feet in Hindi or Urdu. It is a type of curry made with the hoof or trotters of animals like cow, goat, buffalo or lamb. These have relatively lesser meat but the fats and tissues are known to offer a unique flavour. Traditionally, it was slow cooked over coal for hours, usually kept overnight.
Doh Khleh from Meghalaya This dish takes extreme cuisine up a notch. Doh Khleh is a pork and onion salad garnished with pig's brain which is simply steamed. The three main tribes in Meghalaya - Khasis, Garos and Jaintia, have always been known for their love of pork and rice.
You've probably heard of Jadoh, another popular North-east dish made with rice, pork offal and chicken blood. Not yet? Then, that's a start of another long list. If you've ever come across something unexpected, I'd love to hear about it.