The Food Conclave organised by NewsX and The Sunday Guardian at Delhi’s Oberoi hotel on Friday brought food industry professionals and enthusiasts together to explore India’s culinary heritage and the F&B market among other food stories.
“Culinary Tales from Northeast”, a session held at the summit, celebrated the diverse cuisine from India’s Northeast. In attendance were people who are running authentic Northeastern food ventures in the national capital—Kusuma Juneja, founder, Mood; Binita Chamling, founder, Nimtho; Tanisha Phanbuh, founder, Tribal Gourmet; and Chuba Manen Longkumer, founder, Nagaland Kitchen. Chef Stephen from Lavaash moderated the panel discussion.
The panellists talked about the challenges they have faced in bringing Northeastern cuisine to Delhi. Chuba Manen Longkumer, founder, Nagaland Kitchen, highlighted that it is always difficult to bring regional cuisine anywhere. Earlier in his career, he faced a lot of queries about the food from customers, but now with well-travelled guests visiting the restaurants, he said the response is positive.
Binita Chamling, founder, Nimtho, appreciated the youth for being the biggest contributor to the rise of Northeastern cuisine in Indian cities. She said, “The youth has brought this change. Young people are now more adventurous, their palate has expanded. They are willing to try different cuisines. They are very experimental. That is an advantage for us.” She also pointed out that the simplicity of Northeastern food is also a reason for its growing acceptance.
The guests also addressed how Northeastern cuisine is rife with variety and uniqueness. Dishes from various Northeastern regions are incomparable because these have taken in influences from other cuisines, from Bengal, Tibet, Nepal, China etc.
The founder of Tribal Gourmet, Tanisha Phanbuh, is recognised for infusing tribal food with what she calls “everybody’s taste today, gourmet food”. She elaborated on how her approach to fusing Northeastern flavours with global food is all about sticking to the integrity and taste of Northeastern recipes while making it acceptable for people who are trying these dishes for the first time.
Phanbuh brought to the audience’s attention that Northeastern food is very healthy. As people becoming more and more conscious about their health, Northeastern restaurants would only gain in popularity. The cuisine is replete with vegetarian food as well.
Next to address the gathering was Kusuma Juneja, founder, Mood. She started her Northeastern food takeaway service four months back, at the age of 61. The venture is promoted on social media by her daughter and has managed to reach many customers. She talked about how hard it is to source ingredients from the Northeast. Many of the spices and vegetables used in this cuisine are not available in Delhi.
Binita Chamling added to this: “Vegetables are perishable so we can’t source them from the Northeast. We have to adapt and improvise a lot because of the lack of ingredients like several herbs, chillies etc. Many items are seasonal and storing them can be an issue. So it’s a constant struggle.”
The session concluded with the guests narrating how the world is applauding their potential with appreciation and awards. They collectively advised new independent restaurant owners to stick to their roots in order to be successful.