New Delhi, May 16 (IANS) From sana thongba from Manipur to tokhan chicken from Tripura - Rosang restaurant takes pride in bringing flavours from northeast India to the capital.
And guess what? Backed by strong word of mouth, it boasts of loyal customers from countries like Japan and Britain, who invariably visit when in town. So, when the restaurant came up with a Manipuri food festival this month, I made sure to check out what the buzz was all about.
Manipuri couple Mary Lalboi and Muan Tonxing, also the chef of the eating joint, had no experience in the hospitality industry. Their passion for cooking and the desire to open a restaurant serving cuisine from all eight states of northeast - Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Sikkim - brought them here.
In 2003, they successfully opened a joint in Munirka - a hub for northeasterners.
"We shut it down in 2012 as there were parking issues and all. We had opened a branch in Safdarjung Enclave in 2006, but that is more for home delivery. We opened this one in Green Park Extension in January. It became operational from February," Lalboi told IANS.
Their choice of location has helped them get impressive footfalls.
"A majority of our customers are from mainland India and not just from our region. Thanks to word of mouth, people from Japan and Britain also eat at our restaurant. We also get foodies from Goa, Mumbai and Bangalore," said the entrepreneur.
Sourced from different states of the northeast, the ingredients make people from the region feel homely and the others get to treat their taste buds with something different.
"Be it herbs or even ginger, we get them flown from our region to ensure the authenticity and freshness," she said.
The restaurant is an effort made by the couple to promote their culture through food and decor. They are so involved in it that they don't want alcohol to steal the limelight.
"If you eat and drink, the uniqueness of the cuisine will get lost. You won't be able to enjoy the flavours properly and we don't want to be known for selling wine and beer or other drinks," said Lalboi, a graduate in economics with a Bachelor of Education degree from her home state.
Priced at Rs.900 for a meal for two, one can enjoy sana thongba from Manipur, tokhan chicken from Tripura, bilahi masor tenga from Assam or nuoshi from Nagaland sitting in a cosy room on wooden furniture made by Tonxing.
I decided to taste the homely Manipuri dishes.
The thali was a visual treat. The red rice gave me a break from the usual white or brown rice. Placed right in the centre, it was surrounded by iromba - a cold preparation mostly of boiled vegetables and fermented fish. The mildly spiced dish went well with fried dry maroi bora and singju - made of raw vegetables like cabbage and lotus stem.
The chicken curry served in a bowl was also low on spices. With small pieces of onions and a heavy dose of turmeric, it reminded me of chicken dish made back home in Manipur.
The other bowl containing a yellow peas and bamboo shoot dish called mangan ooti looked darker than the usual. When asked, the chef said: "Pomegranate leaves have been added to it for flavour and colour."
The traditional cuisine tasted even better with a red rice beverage. It has a striking resemblance to red tea but doesn't taste anything like it. Made with ground red rice and boiled water, it was so well strained that not a single rice piece floated in my glass. The brown sugar and lemon peel made it even more flavoursome.
On till May 31, those who miss home-cooked food and are away from Manipur to pursue higher education or job opportunities here or even those who are curious about Manipuri cuisine and other states of northeast should visit the Rosang.
(Natalia Ningthoujam can be contacted at email@example.com)