A Garo woman’s YouTube channel is exploring North Eastern cuisine

#1 Nov 25th, 2017, 22:21
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A Garo woman’s YouTube channel is exploring North Eastern cuisine, one tribal kitchen at a time

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When Nambie Marak was growing up in Shillong, her fondness for potatoes was famous. “They called me potato girl,” she said. “I was known in the neighbourhood for how much I could eat.”

Born and raised in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, Marak is from the Garo tribe. She grew up among idyllic landscapes, privy to culinary secrets that inspired her to create and host Eat your Kappa, a YouTube channel in which she travels around the North Eastern states of India, chronicling recipes.

“Everyone thinks that people in the North East eat momos, or even worse, that we eat anything at all,” she said. “But the cuisine is well thought out. It is very intricate.”

In her video log, Marak cooks her favourite North Eastern recipes outdoors, throwing light on some recipes and ingredients that are relatively lesser known to people living in the mainland.

The log is a guide through the intricacies of the North East’s diverse cuisine, bringing an anthropological perspective to foods that are often stereotyped and dismissed. It takes a look at Baring Nakham – a mash of aubergine, dried fish and chillies – which is a quick way to add flavour to a meal of rice and potatoes. In another video, Marak cooks rice in a bamboo stem, explaining that the bamboo used must be fresh and wet.

Food traditions

“In my tribe, we normally eat roots – tapioca, yam and millets were staple foods before rice,” she said. “The vegetables that we use are wild vegetables, the mustard we eat is a mountain mustard. One of my earliest memories of food was eating mustard greens boiled with sliced onions, slit green chillies and salt with a hint of mustard oil. It is such a specific dish.”

Like Marak, most of her followers are enthusiasts from remote areas of the North East who are nostalgic about food from their hometowns. Sometimes, she is also criticised by traditionalists.

“Occasionally, a follower will tell me, ‘Why do you put garlic in your food? In the ancient times no one did that!’ But of course, even North Eastern cuisine is constantly changing with the times.”

Although she grew up in a Garo home, Marak believes the true essence of cuisine from the North East lies in the diversity of its foods, but also finding a common connection between them. The food of every region is different and reflects within it a legend or story specific to that area, which Marak is always careful to include. A Kappa, the source of the name of her vlog, is the name of the cooking technique in the Garo tribe – in which meat and vegetables are cooked with liquid alkaline.

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