Gastronomic Adventure : Na’kam – The Evergreen ingredient of the Garos in Meghalaya

Representational image of Nakham Bitchi of the Garos in Meghalaya

By Nijora Saikia Marak

Tura (Meghalaya ) , Aug 15 : Yes. Na’kam or Dry Fish is savoured by many in the northeast India. Despite its pungent smell, it has found its way into the hearts & mouth of many. There are many ways in which we can add it to our dish, be it the main dish, or a side dish, take your call.

You can either prepare it as chutney, or cook it in place of meat, or add it to our dish while cooking. Some like to cook it in a typical way by adding baking soda or ash-water (ash-water is water sieved from ash that is derived by burning banana trunk). The simplest form of cooking a typical dry fish dish is by putting all the ingredients together, that includes ginger, green chilli, pinch of baking soda or few teaspoons of ash-water, salt to taste; bring it to boil… Once cooked it’s called Na’kam Bitchi by Garo of Meghalaya .

Now if you are not so fond of baking soda, you will love it fried together with onions and green chilli; this version or the chutney can be used also as “chaknas” to lick your fingers while sipping your evening shot ; oh!! By the way, once your na’kam is cooked, have it with hot steamed rice.

And if you are still wondering what this Na’kam or dry fish is, well, just like the name suggests, it’s nothing but fish that is dried in the sun mixed with salt of course. This is a good way of preserving or storing fish for later consumption; in fact, it can be stored for really a long time. Just one thing though, it smells , hence, some even call it stinky fish! This reminds me of another version of it… The fermented fish, one which you crush and smash the dry fish and store inside a bamboo.

If you are a foodie, you should try all the delicacies that can be prepared using this evergreen ingredient. Why evergreen, is that what you are thinking of? Okay.. It’s one of the most loved to eat among the northeasterners, may be elsewhere too.

Almost everybody craves for this, especially “Na’kam Bitchi” and “Na’kam chutney”. No matter how heavy the food you eat, but it’s always something to have it along. Give it a try and taste the difference .

Just in case you don’t like experimenting much, you won’t regret it you try it the “frying” version!!

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