My second trip to Shillong last weekend was special for a lot of reasons. When I had come here for the first time, I had done all the touristy things, this time the idea was to make it a leisure trip with lots of good
food and great coffee. I had one advantage- this visit was with a friend and his wife, both of whom are the alumni of the first batch of Indian Institute of Management, Shillong and having spent two years there, they not only know the place inside out, but have developed a special affection for it. I was looking forward to spending some relaxing time at this pretty hill town coupled with embarking on a gastronomic journey. Here are some dishes that I tried out, loved and would suggest all of you on a Shillong visit not to miss.
- Jadoh: For the uninitiated, jadoh is a rice and meat Khasi delicacy popular in Meghalaya and made from minimal oil and spices. The pork jadoh is the most common and consists of short- grained hill rice and grated pork and pork fat. The authentic version has pork blood added to the dish, though most restaurants would not follow the authentic cooking process to cater to a larger audience who might find it repulsive. We had jadoh and pork with bamboo shoot for lunch at the Ri Kynjai Resort, that offers a pretty view of the Barapani or the Umaim lake on the way to Shillong.
It was the first time I was having it and it took me a bit of time to get used to it, but then it grew on me. Call it if you may, a version of Biriyani, this simple meat and rice dish cooked in garlic, onions and green chillies and garnished with coriander leaves ( to give it a green colour) is the mainstay of Khasi cuisine, like Pasta would be for Italian.
But unlike Biriyani, it is not made of long grained rice and the rice is cooked into a paste. The pork in bamboo shoot tasted rather bland and I did not mind the jadoh just by itself. Strictly for the meat lovers, this is one dish that is a must try if you visit Shillong. Would have liked to try out Jadoh at one of the local Jadoh stalls in Shilliong, but never found an opportunity this time around. Am sure the jadoh would taste even better there.
- The Doh Kpu and the Doh Jem: We had stayed the first night at Nongthymmai and the next morning had gone down for tea at this small stall next to our guest house. The idea was to have tea but I could not resist ordering the Doh Kpu ( beef meatballs) and Doh Jem ( a dish made out of pork liver and intestines ) and served with putharo( steamed rice cake) when I saw people having it for breakfast. And both these dishes just blew me away.
The meatballs were made out of minced beef rolled into a ball and fried and then simmered in boiling water, making them soft and extremely tasty. It came with coarse steamed rice and the bit of gravy that came with the meatballs was of a taste I will not forget in a hurry.
The Doh Jem is a stew made out of the soft parts of animal meat, in this case liver and intestines of pork, cooked with bay leaves, onion and garlic and has a distinctive smoky flavour. Try these dishes if you are a diehard pork and beef lover. You will not be disappointed.
- Duck Thali: The City Hut Dhaba near Police Bazaar in Shillong is a place that impresses you right from the word go. As you enter, you see the walls decorated with fresh colourful vegetables and greens that will eventually find a way to your plate. There is also a small pond and a waterfall. We were there for lunch just before heading out of Shillong to catch out flight and being pretty hungry, I ordered a duck thali.
What was served was a big spread- rice, roti, daal,aloo bhaja, mixed vegetable curry(panchemeshali tarkari in Bengali), a paneerdish, duck curry and to top it all misti doi. The dal and the aloo bhaja and the tarkari were simply awesome, and reminded one of home cooked food. The duck was cooked in a runny gravy as we do kochi patahar jhol ( meat of a young goat in the Bengali cuisine) and went well with the rice. The misti doi was a perfect end to the thali, so subtle it was it its taste. Would have liked to try out other dishes, but when you are hungry, a thali at this place makes you full and happy.
- The Khow Suey: One of the best cafes in town is Café Shillong. I particularly liked their dark cappuccino, but when there try out their Khow Suey.
Khow Suey or noodles in coconut curried sauce is a Burmese dish, the most famous one. The noodles are cooked in a subtly spiced coconut milk broth and served with various condiments which give the dish a different dimension with its myriad contrasting flavours. Here they served 6 condiments- hard boiled eggs, lime wedges, deep fried garlic, dried fish, chilli oil and diced spring onions. The noodles and the broth were served separately. This is a dish that requires some creativity beyond the kitchen, you need to do an alchemist and get a right mix of condiments and customise the dish to suit your taste buds, which is kind of difficult at the first attempt. And this is makes Khao Suey so special. It will tickle your taste buds with a variety of flavours and tantalize them just enough to create an experience like no other. Do not miss it!
- Lamington: My friend and his wife were going gaga over this thing called a Lamington available at this bakery shop named Reen’s Confectionary near their college. Lamington, I was to find out, is an Australian cake made out of layers of sponge cake, dipped in chocolate and coated in dry grated coconut.
This is one dish that is not available popularly, ( I have never come across this dish anywhere in India ) and to taste it was a novelty. You expect it to taste like a chocolate cake, but the fresh sweetness and the nutty flavour of coconut is a combination that will blow your mind. This needs to be consumed that day itself, so you can’t pack it for home, even if you want to. Going all the way to Shillong just for this does make sense and you won’t probably agree with me till you actually have had it.
- Masala fruits:This one is what you can call an extremely addictive street food which is also healthy at the same time. Essentially it is pieces of cut fruit, smeared in hot and spicy masala , packed in small polythene packets that come for Rs 10 for each pack.
We tried out pineapples (it just tastes wow), oranges (it is on the sour side and takes time to get used to) and a type of local nut which smeared in masala so hot that it brought tears to the eyes. In season they have strawberries, raspberries and wine berries , all of which have unique tastes but I am yet to taste them. These are available at roadside stalls, but I would particularly remember the ones we had sitting on the sprawling grass under the warm afternoon sun at the Shillong Golf Course, also known as the Gleneagles of the East, one of the few natural golf courses in Asia.
There is other stuff that you need to try out as well, but let us keep it for later. If you like your travel to coincide with great food, Shillong is one hill station that should be on your list.