Meat-based dishes, smoked, dried and pungent flavours, a liberal use of chilli and the distinct lack of typical Indian masala defines cuisine in the Northeast. The food is mostly mild, owing to the lack of spices that grow in the region, aside from some local herbs. Rice is a staple and the Tibetan momos and thukpa are ubiquitous. For drinks, salty yak-butter tea and local brews (known by various names including raksi, chang and apong) made of millet, maize or rice are recommended to keep off the chill.
In Assam, try the xaag (leaf vegetables), fish tenga (a souring agent), pitika (a pungent vegetable mash) and khorika (meat on a skewer). Meghalaya tends to go heavy on the pork, with dishes such as doh neiiong (pork with black sesame seeds) and the staple jadoh (rice cooked in meat stock with pork). Meghalayan cooking also features liberal use of seasonal mustard leaves and mushrooms. At local markets in Arunachal you’ll find strings of churpi (fermented rock-hard yak’s cheese), lai patta (mustard spinach) and dried river fish. Churpa, popular in Arunachal kitchens, is a pungent cheese stew with meat and vegetables. Naga cuisine consists of smoked, dried meats, bamboo shoot, anishi (dry yam leaves) and akhuni (fermented soy bean); wild herbs are used as flavouring agents. The star, of course, is the bhut jolokia or the king chilli, among the hottest in the world. Thalis are common in Manipur, with side dishes such as singju (raw papaya and chickpea salad) and iromba (fish and veg chutney) accompanying rice and fish or meat curries.
Mizo cuisine is fairly bland, consisting of forest vegetables and smoked meats; bai (vegetable stew with dry soy bean) is a staple.
Fish is abundant in Tripura, and berma, a pungent fermented fish paste, is used as flavouring.