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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Chp 697. Vacation home food delicacies

Two of the many reasons I love about going home to Mizoram are the scenery and the food.

Waking up at 5:30 AM just to watch the sunrise from my balcony is truly enchanting. It's an experience you won't get anywhere else. Our house, which is perched on a hilltop, has this absolutely stunning panoramic view from my balcony, where I can see the entire Chaltlang eastern slope on my left and right side, Durtlang and Zemabawk in front, Ramhlun below, and the rest of Aizawl on the far right.

At 5:30 AM, everything is so calm and peaceful, with just a light bulb or two shimmering from each household, all cozily lying next to each other in clusters. The entire valley is dead silent except for the gush of cold icy wind and feisty roosters crowing one by one across the valley, as if they're sharing the latest gossips from their respective localities.

I clutched my hot filter coffee tightly as I slowly waited for the sun to appear across the horizon… It's like having an epiphany as the sun slowly appeared across the pristine pale blue horizon. Hello sunshine! *sigh*

Even at 10 AM, the scenery is still breathtaking from my room, especially when the mists lying at the bottom of the hills refuse to leave… (all photos clicked using my Oneplus 3)

(I feel sorry for my friend Jacqueline though whose house lies at the foot of the hill in the pic above, so she is perpetually surrounded by mists and cannot even make her way to the toilet without bumping into the cupboard or fridge)

Absorbing all these beautiful scenery amidst the pleasant cold climate brings me to the other thing I love the most about Mizoram - the food.

Unlike the past few years, this time I spent most of my vacation at our house, dining with my family. For a change, it felt very fulfilling and heartwarming. Also, I got to eat more of home-cooked food rather than at restaurants, so here are some of the stuff I had this vacation, with a brief description of the dish.

The first thing I demanded when I reached home was fresh Smoked Pork! Oh yeaaaaah!

Mom got these ready for me and it went to the frying pan straightaway.

Yummmm! Very porky, such fatty, much juicy, wow.

I had the awesome Pork with our Mizo Anṭam bai (Mustard leaves). It is the green dish you can see below. "Bai" is our traditional method of preparing stew dishes, and it is usually cooked with Saum (fermented pig fat), vegetables, some boiled rice, soda, chillis etc. Ingredients change from dish to dish depending on the type of "Bai" you're making and they are all utterly delicious.

Another traditional dish I really love is our Bekang (fermented soybeans). In Pune, I make the dish using Bekang rep (dried) because they preserve for a long time. But back home, I can have fresh (green) Bekang which is like 10 times better.

My sister always prepares this dish in large quantity so that it lasts for a couple of meals. She mixes onions, salt and chilly powder to the sizzling fermented soybeans and it is sooo good!

The Bekang dish goes well with any cuisine, even when there aren't that many side dishes, like below is just rice and dal with omelette, a small quantity of mashed potatoes and Bekang overload, lolz.

Squash, known as Iskut in Mizo, is a common vegetable in our local cuisine, and we usually boil them. It's truly sad that we don't get Squash this side of the country. The green veggie below is boiled Squash.

And sometimes we fry Squash too and it is awesome. Here's fried Squash, with some Avocado that my mom force fed me, lolz.

Next we have Behlawi bai (cowpea leaves), another popular Mizo dish, with of course more fatty Smoked Pork. If I'm not mistaken, Behlawi bai is prepared the same way as Anṭam bai, with the only difference being the vegetation, as one is Mustard leaves while this is Cowpea leaves.

Rawtuai bai (bamboo shoot) is yet another popular and awesome Mizo cuisine. The white chunks on the left below is Rawtuai bai. Next to it is Behlawi bai, fried Prawns, Bekang, Iskut (boiled Squash) and fried potatoes.

The best part about boiled Smoked Pork is that even when the Pork (meat and fat) is over, the residual broth can be used to boil veggies like Mustard leaves and Cabbages. Here's some of that juicy boiled Mustard leaves, along with some fried potatoes and Tuna. Both the Tuna and the type of dal below aren't authentic Mizo dishes though.

Here's more of fatty boiled Smoked Pork with sautéed Mushroom gravy and fermented Shrimp chutney! So good! Fermented shrimp paste/chutney/pickle are very popular and they really spice up any meal. They have quite a pungent smell though, so it is an acquired taste.

Giant Tiger Prawns! Super dillu.

The head part is a little difficult to eat, you gotta clear some of the "stuff" which can get a little bit tedious, but it is absolutely worth doing that.

Another simple Mizo cuisine. If you look at the rice below, you will see the light-coloured dal, that is called "dal hâng" in Mizo. Hâng (pronounced "haang") basically means something made with little or no condiments. For example, "thingpui hâng" means tea without sugar and "dal hâng" means dal without salt or masala. My mom loves it this way.

Ok taking a brief break from rice meals, here's an awesome afternoon snack I ordered from "Cookie Jar", Chanmari. Beef stuffed paratha, giant Beef momo (I think it would be more appropriate to call it stuffed Tingmo?) and Beef burger.

Here's some Chole bhatura my sisters made at home after New Year Church service. First class tasty tasty :)

Ordered stuffed paratha, grilled Chicken, mutter paneer and a Mutton gravy dish from some place, I can't remember the place now, lolz. But look below, the bekang side-dish went well even with this inter-culinary platter! :D

We ordered Chana bhature from "Malva", a small restaurant situated at DIET pêng between Chaltlang and Ramhlun, as my sister said they make the best Bhatures and Puris in Mizoram. My verdict? It is indeed the best in Mizoram! You must try it out if you haven't yet.

We also ordered a couple of times from "Soltee", a new restaurant that had opened up near our house. We got Pork roast (dry), Dal tadka, Bhendi fry and Mushroom masala with rice and chapatti. One of their chefs who specializes in Pork roast had gone home to Manipur for the holidays, so this one wasn't that great as the usual, my sister said.

Another oddly mixed up meal - Anṭam bai (Mustard leaves), with fried Bacon and fried Egg-coated Brinjal (can we call this "Egg Eggplant"? :P )

Here's my brother-in-law Nick donning the chef's hat and preparing Paella for dinner.

Paella is a Spanish (Valencian) rice dish made from Arborio rice (which they bought from Australia as it isn't available in Mizoram) with Parmesan cheese, Chorizo sausages, Prawns, Roast Chicken, beans etc.

Extremely delicious. It went perfectly with all the usual Mizo dishes as well. Also, below at the bottom is boiled Changkha (bitter gourd / karela) which is good for lowering high BP, and above is "Vawksa er fu" (Pork crackling / Pork rind) which is good for raising low BP, lolz. See, they cancel out each other, haha. :P

We also ordered Pork Ribs from "Aizawl Meats" and it was awesome. I added KFC Chicken Breast, cheesy Mushrooms and Bekang chutney to my Rice + Ghee. Some of you might consider this a weird combo, but I looooved it!

Below is a mix of most of the dishes you've seen earlier. What's new is that whitish dish on top. That is called "Vawk lu bawl" and it is one of my favorite Mizo dishes. It is made from Pig's head, grounded Sesame, Maida flour, garlic, onion, ginger, chilly etc and it is soooo good!

We also made Puchkas at home. Added a little bit of vodka to bring out the zing :D. My sisters made the alu chaat stuffing and spicy mint + tamarind water, while I had the arduous task of adding vodka into it :P We bought the ready-made Puris from "ST Mart", Ramhlun.

The dishes below, we ordered them from "Curry Pot". Initially they said we would have to pick them up since it was their busiest time of the year, but eventually, we pleaded and pleaded and finally they sent out a delivery boy :D - Great food: Pork, Chicken, Cutlet, Gobi and extremely spicy chilly chutney.

More fatty Pork fry dish, with Pork sausages, Egg curry and Chilly Chicken gravy.

As I have said a couple of times in my blog before, we Mizos have just two main meals a day - Breakfast and Dinner, which as you can see from above are very heavy and usually rice based. While the rest of India have Lunch, we have "tea snacks" instead during this time, where we eat something light.

Like for example, here's WaiWai I made for tea snack, garnished with sausages and Raja mirchi pickle. Simple yet amazing.

My sister's homemade Hakka noodles with shredded Beef and Mushrooms. Yummm.

And here's a tea snack from our neighbours "Serṭawk Bar" restaurant (or as my friends now simply call it "SB" to make it sound more classy, lolz) - Beef chow, sa tui leih (which means "with soup poured into it").

Mixed chow and Mixed fried rice from "Soltee" below. And oh, I would like to give one piece of precaution to tourists visiting Mizoram - since we eat all meat, just be careful when you order anything "mixed" because that would include Chicken, Beef, Pork etc and you might not like it if you don't eat such meat due to religious sentiments.

Sometimes, for tea snack, me and my two sisters, bro-in-law and niece would get so lazy to make anything that we would just eat anything that could be eaten quickly, lolz, like for instance, trying out different types of Cheese with salted Crackers.

It's like a tornado went through here :D

Below at the bottom right is Samṭawk (bitter tomato) which is again very common in Mizoram. It is boiled and eaten just like that. I really don't like it because of the bitterness but mom would always make sure I eat them (she would slyly put them in my plate like a Ninja while I'm looking somewhere else, daymmm mom!)

And this was my last meal of my 2017-18 vacation. My sister made the special Beef balls that my friend Delph had gifted me, along with Smoked Pork, Arsa buhchiar (Chicken rice khichdi), Mai-an bai (Pumpkin leaves stew) and boiled Pumpkin. And of course, Anṭam (boiled Mustard leaves), Chicken popcorn and Bekang (fermented Soybeans). Truly a befitting last meal, naw? :D

And with that ended my documentary of the food I ate at home during my vacation. I hope you enjoyed this post and it made you so hungry that you are ordering food right away too :D

Now you know why I gained 5 KGs, lolz.

In case you want to know more details of our Mizo cuisines, do drop me a comment. Until the next post then, cheers everyone.

Ps. Much gratitude to our Mizo Bloggers WhatsApp group for helping me with some of the English translation of the dishes.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Chp 696. Mizo Community feast 2017-18

Every year, for Christmas and New Year, we have a community feast, known as "ruaiṭheh" in Mizo. Unlike funerals and other community activities which are organized by our local YMA (Young Mizo Association), the Christmas and New Year ruaiṭheh are organized by people within the same Church denomination (known as "Kohhran") of each locality.

I belong to Chaltlang South Presbyterian Kohhran, and our two ruaiṭheh this time were absolutely rocking, just like other years.

But unlike other years, this time, the shameless me didn't turn up for any "fatu" service. Fatu (which can be both a noun and a verb) is the work we do as a community prior to the feast, where various tasks are divided among the community members - some people have to cut the veggies, others cook the meat, and so on.

I didn't go for the "fatu" because, first of all, it was too damn early to suddenly wake up at 4 in the morning when your biological clock is so used to getting up at 8 every morning the entire year. Secondly, it was too freaking cold. Mizoram hit temperatures as low as 5°C just before I came back to Pune, so you can imagine how warm and comfortable snuggling under one's blanket must be. :)

All my friends took part in the "fatu" though, including my dearly departed friend Matea. Here he is with Sanga at the meat chopping section.

Watching these recent photos makes me so sad… I remember him scolding me on WhatsApp for not turning up at the "fatu". If only I knew he and I would never get to "fatu" together again, I would have sooo turned up!!! :(

At our Kohhran, our Christmas ruaiṭheh takes place every year on the 26th as there's usually three Church services on the 25th - morning, noon and night services. Many other denominations follow this rule too, though not necessarily. For example, outside Mizoram, most Mizo Christian Fellowships across India have their ruaiṭheh on the 25th itself, right after the Christmas service, because of the obvious reason that 26th is not a holiday outside Mizoram.

This was us before heading out to our Church service on Christmas day.

And this was after the Church service, as we lined up to get the refreshment snacks and traditional tea.

The next day, like I already mentioned earlier, I bunked the "fatu" and then shamelessly headed out to the community feast with my niece Nancy and her husband Utsav. You may have seen their wedding photos recently on my blog [Wedding in Goa - part 1 | Wedding in Goa - part 2 | Mysore Adventures - part 1 + 2]. This is with Utsav, Nancy and Nancy's mom.

We lined up together to take our food, buffet style. Most of the food counters were similar, they were just there to distribute the number of people lining up, but there were also special counters for senior citizens and those who "cannot eat animals with four legs", meaning those who eat just chicken and egg, and not beef and pork (hehe, there is no separate counter for vegetarians because a vegetarian Mizo does not exist :P )

Took this photo while we were standing in queue. Lovely scenery indeed.

Our turn to get our food. Young members from our community were designated this task of serving to the masses. We had all been through this as we were brought up.

My plate! Sorry it doesn't look very enticing, but trust me, it was dillu! Ohhh the fatty pork pieces, yummmmm!

Once we had our fill, we kept our plates downstairs where another batch of young volunteers were cleaning the leftovers and washing the plates.

We walked around the place taking a few pics…

For me, the best part about going to our ruaiṭheh is that I get to meet almost everybody in my locality. Neighbors, Church leaders, Schoolmates, friends' parents, and maybe even a potential future wife as well :P We shake hands, exchange pleasantries and quickly update each other on what we've been up to. And of course all my friends' mothers were like, "When the hell are you planning to get married???" :P

Since I don't live in Mizoram, catching up with people from my locality is a very important event for me, whereas somebody who stays there might take such gatherings for granted, after all, they see each other almost every day.

Thus ended our awesome Christmas ruaiṭheh. Back when we were rebellious teenagers, our locality circle of friends (Ryders gang) would always hang out together after the feast. We would make a bonfire, and some of us would slyly sip alcohol while others crack jokes and we used to have so much fun together. Sadly now, things have changed. While some members are no longer with us, most of us are now married and with kids. Their priorities have changed, and I don't blame them for that. Only a handful of us are now single and we reminisced on how awesome it used to be back then :'(

Fast forward one week later, and it's the New Year.

I went to Church on the 1st for the New Year service with my family again…

Selfie from inside the Church, once the service was over. We were just sitting and waiting for the ushers to allow us to go out…

I call this, "When you wanna take a Pray-fie with your sisters but one hand is already holding the phone" :P :D

Finally, the ushers came and allowed us to leave the Church. We all laughed because, just like the earlier Christmas service, we were again one of the lasts to be ushered out of the Church! We joked that cousin BTi probably rejected the advances of one of the ushers, so as revenge they made sure our two bench rows were always the last to leave the Church.

With cousin BTi, the reason why we were always ushered out last :D

Matea relaxing after the Church service :(

Matea with his wife Parteii and daughter Amanda :'(

Once all of us were done with the refreshments and tea, my family went home while I headed over to my second family - our Ryders group of friends. We took a few photos together, just like every other year. Our women were busy with some work so it was just us guys this time.

That night, we were invited to dinner at u-Baby's house and I met a lot of wonderful peeps (will blog about it another day). Since the dinner and socializing went on well past midnight, I once again didn't turn up for the "fatu" the next morning :D

But of course, I attended the New Year ruaiṭheh, the shameless me :D

At first I was reluctant, or as we say it in Mizo "inthlahrung" to attend the feast since I did not help out with the preparation, but then when I heard that my friend Moiteii, aka Lianmawii Hauhnar on Facebook, had never attended a single "fatu" for the past 30+ years but always turned up for the ruaiṭheh, suddenly, I no longer felt reluctant. :D

I went to Matea's place which is our usual rendezvous point before heading out together to the feast. Earlier, we used to go together in a large group, but most of us are now married, so the married ones go with their spouses and kids :(

Long line in front of the food counters…

Selfie with Matea, Muansanga, Hriatpuia and Mamawii as we stood in queue. I'm still heartbroken to know this was the last picture I took with Matea :'(

Lines, lines and more lines. The best part about standing in line with friends is we get to joke and laugh so much about friends and anything in particular.

My New Year ruaiṭheh plate. Yummmmmm. So much pork, fatty juicy pork! :D

And thus ended two awesomely prepared ruaiṭheh. This is why I miss Mizoram so much. Eating together with friends over here in Pune is great too, but nothing can really beat that ambience and sentiment of feasting together with your entire locality back home.

The uniqueness of one's hometown.

Bonus after-ruaiṭheh photo: Below on the right is my dear friend Moiteii, aka Lianmawii Hauhnar on Facebook, the one who hasn't been to a single "fatu" in 30+ years but never fails to attend our ruaiṭheh. This is what you call self-confidence; The perfect making of a Manager in a Corporate office :D Be like Moiteii. :P

Hoping to attend this year's Christmas ruaiṭheh again, if everything goes well.

Until my next post then, cheers everyone.