5 unique spices used in North East cooking – Part I

Ever wonder why cuisines in the North East of India taste so unique and different? Why there is a craze for north eastern foods in the major cities? Well for one we all know that most cuisines that come out of the North East are almost continental in structure, process of making and flavours. This is because most of the cooking techniques and fooding habits of this region of the nation resemble the fooding habits of the South East Asian cuisines.

One of the other reasons why the food here is so tempting is the many ways in which we use our exotic spices. So in this piece let us look at 5 of the most uncommon spices that are used in North East Indian cooking:

  1. Chimphing (Nepalese Hog Weed)

Chimphing or hog weed has a scientific name that is Heracleum nepalense and is found most commonly in the regions of Kalimpong, Darjeeling and Sikkim. In the vernacular we call it chimphing. In these regions this spice is used for traditional medicinal purposes along with flavouring and seasoning of meats and vegetables alike. The medicines traditionally made using chimphing is used to cure ailments like stomach issues, gastric, indigestion and constipation.  As foods it is most commonly ground alongside sour tree tomatoes to make really spicy chutney as relish for boiled vegetables.  The flowering plant is originally native to Iran and grows abundantly in mountainous regions with a medium humid climate. It is still a popular spice that is used in Irani cooking and is mostly used in powdered form. A good Chimphing seasoning makes for a very flavoursome bowl of stews or soups made of meats or Lentils. Chimphing when mixed into vinegar in powdered form or as a whole makes for an amazing salad dressing especially with lettuce.

Health benefits:

In a traditional sense, the spice is used to treat ailments like inflammation, convulsions and even fungus induced diseases. Free radicals are a harmful infectant to the internal human body. If there are too many free radical particles in your body, it ultimately leads to cancer or ailments that involve the heart or the liver; it can also cause diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. This is one spice that can help you get rid of maximum free radicals from your body. This spice is a rich source of complex compounds such as terpenoids, alkaloids and triterpenes that can show immediate effects to convulsions. Not to forget, the spice is a great anti-fungal, anti-microbial medicine.

  1. Timbur:

Schezuan pepper or as we like to call it in our vernacular, Timbur is a very popular spice that is used in Nepali, Tibetan, Chinese and south east Asian cuisines. It is closely related to citrus fruits and belongs to the prickly ash tree. Timbur is one of the main ingredients that go on into the making of the famous Chinese Five-Spice powder. The seeds of timbur are tiny and resemble black pepper but with a red covering. The outer covering of the seed is spicy and may feel like biting into black pepper for a bit, but the interior is numbing, citrusy, pungent and minty to taste.

Health benefits:

We often feel overwhelming lethargy, weak and light headed this can be caused due to many reason such as anaemia, over work, menstruation etc. consuming timbur as a whole seed helps you increase the haemoglobin content in the body and also helps you regulate body fluids better and opens up the circulation. The spice is high on zinc levels and this is a mineral that is important when it comes to body immunity. By using timbur in the food or as a whole, one will have a secured immune system ready to fight any diseases. Often times when we are ailing from illnesses and we have lost all appetite, chewing on timbur seeds will help you regain the appetite along with speeding your metabolism. Timbur is also packed with spices like phosphorus, copper, manganese and iron that help to strengthen bones and maintain bone density.

  1. Silam (perilla seeds):

Perilla seeds or Nei Lieh in the Khasi langiage and Silam in the Nepali language is another popularly consumed spice of the north East of India. It belongs to a mint family. These seeds are aromatic and they have a very powerful nutty flavour that is absolutely addictive. In the north East Indian state of Meghalaya, they use the spice as a main ingredient to make delicious chutneys and as dressings on salads.

Health benefits:

The plant of Perilla is a rich source of dietary fibre and is packed with nutrients such as the omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acid and alpha-linolenic acids that have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and other such properties that are beneficial for maintaining a healthy heart health. The fatty acids in the perilla seeds are procured and made into oil that helps treat asthma, to relieve spasms and also helps relieve stomach pains.

  1. Ing makhir ginger powder :

The scientific name for this amazing spice is Zingiber rubens also known vernacularly as “sying makhir” or simply “ing makhir”. This is a variety of ginger that grows in the fertile soils of Meghalaya that produce some of the best quality spices in the world. The taste and aroma of the ginger is very pungent and strong owing to the high gingerol content in the ginger. The distinct taste of the Ing Makhir ginger is gives it its refreshing quality along with citrusy and earthy notes. If you are cooking for your family and using ing makhir ginger, you have to use a very small amount and that should be quite enough to season your entire meal

Health benefits:

The use of ing makhir ginger has been done since centuries ago in the form of traditional medicine that was used to cure severe tooth aches, body aches, joint pains, rheumatism and arthritis. The ginger is also used as a powerful snake repellent. The ginger is washed and roughly crushed into its fibres to add it into the bath water that is prepared for babies. It is believed that in doing so, the water not only sanitizes and gets rid of bacteria, but the ginger also permeates into the baby’s outer layer of the skin keeping him naturally ward because of the properties of ginger; in doing so the parents ensure preventive measures for cold in the infant. The ginger is most commonly used as a cure to a really sore throat, cough and cold as well.

  1. Roselle powder:

The scientific name for this beautifully pigmented red colored calycle of the Roselle plant is Hibiscus sabdariffa L. It has long been used as a supplement in drinks and foods as a health enhancing agent. In the north east, the Roselle plant grows abundantly and is used for seasoning foods, drinks and also as medicine. The Roselle plant is neither a fruit nor a flower; it is the part of the plant that we call calycle which are the red fleshy sepals that blanket the flower’s seed pods. The plant has been used for therapy since historic times to treat minor ailments like urinary tract infections, colds, hangovers and toothaches. It was also used in the form of fresh juice to soothe sores and ulcers and to treat conjunctivitis

Health benefits:

The Roselle plant has many health benefits its juice and teas are used as cure to menstrual pain and to relieve severe cramps. This is also a great solution to days when we feel a hormonal imbalance that causes severe mood swings, over eating and mild depressions. The Roselle plant is a powerful anti-bacterial agent in its properties along with being an anti-inflammatory agent. The calycles are rich in Vitamin C which is a super important nutrient to improve immune system of the body. It can also relieve the discomfort one feels due to fever and other ailments.

These were just a few of the most flavorful and unique North East Indian spices that you can use in cooking meals in your own kitchen. Purchase these spices from a range of top brands of the North East Region only on www.neorigins.com website

NE Origins

all author posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are makes.