When drunkards turn professional cooks

Kohima: Many young Naga boys, who engage in drinking at secret places here in the dry state of Nagaland, turn professional cooks during the week-long Hornbill Festival to give tourists a taste of exotic cuisine from the state.

Having a taste for good food and love for the art of cooking, hundreds of young men take a break from their studies or jobs to set up temporary food stalls as part of the ongoing festive celebrations.

Interestingly, the stall-owners also included young housewives and professionals.

Take for instance Elu Elunglung, a sound engineer by profession, who has brought out his home cooking apparatus, including barbeques and utensils, into his temporary foodjoint – The Flame.

"It is the passion for cooking that has brought me here. Besides, we also make good money as the number of tourists is good," said the 25-year-old, who cooks at home on weekends.

Despite the traditional Naga culture discouraging spending time outside the house after sunset and the ban on the sale of liquor in the state, boys booze in secret places in the evenings during other times of the year.

If not for their love for cooking, then for a handsome pocket money, the young men set up roadside stalls just before the night sets in.

"It is very satisfying to cook and serve authentic Naga cuisine to tourists from outside the state. We get lot of compliments from them," says 22-year-old Khreto who learnt cooking from his mother.

Known for exotic meats, Naga cuisine has interesting varieties of beef, pork and chicken to suit various tastebuds. Some of the popular dishes include fermented bambooshoot with fish or pork and axone (boiled and smoked soyabean) with smoked pork and beef.

Anisha, made up of yam leaves and smoked dry, is also popular among foodies.

A local industry body started the `Kohima Night Carnival` in 2005 coinciding with the Hornbill Festival, one of the largest in the Northeast, held every year from December 1 to 7 to showcase the richness and diversity of the tribal culture of Nagaland.

"During other times of the year, they have no space to hang out with friends and have fun after evening. But this gives them an opportunity to get a taste of nightlife and also do something productive," K Chris Krie, vice-president of the Kohima Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said.

During the seven days of the fest, the 125 food stalls make an estimated business of Rs 30 lakh as thousands of tourists, including a good number of foreigners, throng the hill city.

"We have made it a point to give priority to youths in setting up stalls. The whole idea is to adapt the society according to the mindset of the current generation and open up newer avenues for them," he said.


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