The Cuisine of East India

Variety of spices and lentils in market, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India
Jeremy Woodhouse Getty Images

States included : West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Orrisa.

Geographical and cultural influence on the region’s cuisine: Home to beaches and mountains and Cherrapunji (the city with the highest rainfall in the world), Eastern India grows a lot of rice! Green vegetables and fruit are also abundant and so are the foods cooked using them. People, though, are a balanced mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian.

The geographical location of this region means its food bears the strong influence of Chinese and Mongolian cuisine.

Style of food: Simple is the key word for food of this region in India. Preparation is not elaborate and neither are most of the ingredients. Steaming and frying are popular methods of cooking. In coastal regions fish is the non-vegetarian food of choice while further inland, pork wins the popularity contest. The people of no other region in India can rival the love for sweets and desserts that Eastern Indians have! Some of India’s most popular and world-renowned sweets come from here.

Staple foods: Rice and some more rice!

Cooking oils commonly used: Mustard oil is very popular and used for both deep frying and cooking. Other vegetable oils are also used. Ghee is used for cooking special occasion foods.

Important spices and ingredients: Mustard seeds and paste, chilies (both green and red), Paanch Phoran (a mix of five spices – white cumin seeds, onion seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek seeds).

Yogurt, coconut, maize and gram flour are also common ingredients. Milk and dairy products play a huge role in the preparation of sweets in Eastern India.

Popular dishes: Momos (steamed, meat- or vegetable-filled wontons) and Thukpa (a clear soup), Tomato Achaar (tomato pickle), Machcher Jhol (fish curry), Jhaal-Muri (a spicy snack made with puffed rice and mustard oil), Sandesh, Rasgolla....