A chance cancellation of a trip to Jama Masjid because of the unrelenting traffic of Delhi, a city whose roads are perpetually clogged with ever increasing vehicles trying to navigate as if they are drunken horses incapable of linear motion, led us to alight from a bone-crushingly crowded metro at INA market to head to Dilli Haat to our abruptly changed rendezvous.
After a cursory glance at many of the enticing food pavilions from the many many diverse states that make up this union, we decided to make a beeline to the Manipur stand, having been on the lookout to try food from this pretty little state for a while. We ordered a thali, having determined to try and sample as wide a variety of food as possible without seriously blocking our stomachs or arteries. The meat we chose for the platter was pork, the beloved meat of the northeast. The thali was topped up with a greasy spiced papad on the mound of white rice, that favourite crispy starter/palate cleanser across the country. The pork curry, by far the main attraction of the thali, was a fine example of meaty comfort food. Swimming in a spicy and oily yet surprisingly light curry, the warm spicy flavours were perfect to drench the rice with before eating. Pork pieces were fatty and probably included the belly. However, the think spicy gravy it was part of lent it a delightful taste that went perfectly with its gamey and larded flavour. Two other uniquely Manipuri dishes part of the thali were Ooti and Eromba. The latter was a hallmark of Meitei Maniouru cuisine and consisted of delightfully fleshy bamboo shoots bursting with the cheery flavours typical to the much-beloved plant that was cooked with Manipuri chillies in a watery gravy.
The gravy was almost condensed and the preparation very simple, and yet this proved to be the gamechanger, with every little morsel being relished to the core. Ooti was a dry yellow peas preparation that we tried eating with rice but it was much easier to eat by itself so as to fully avail its earthy flavour. Accompanying these was a sort of thick dal that was average tasting at best. It was probably made of a lentil not unique to the northeast. All of this was washed down with a peppy glass of fruit beer that was pretty fresh and minty.
The overall experience of the thali was highly enjoyable and for once we were glad to have missed out on an opportunity to savour the kebabs and nihari’s of Jama Masjid.