If you happen to be in Belgium and catch sight of an unassuming orange truck we advise you to drop what you’re doing and chase it like your life depends on it! This quaint food truck simply named ‘Lulu’s Tribal Kitchen’ belongs to Lulu Pheiga, the girl who is single-handedly bringing North-East Indian cuisine to the streets of Belgium. Lulu, a member of the Rongmei Naga tribe hails from Neikanlong, in Manipur. She learnt to cook in her early teens from her mother and grandmother, these earthy family recipes are what goes into her simple but delicious food.
Lulu’s husband was actually the first one to suggest starting a food truck. They used to cook as a hobby but when they moved to Belgium getting a job became difficult as they didn’t speak the language. When they set out on their own they came up against multiple rules and regulations which set them back yet again. Lulu eventually braved the Dutch hospitality course and came out a year later, diploma in hand, ready to take on her own business.
While many Western countries have had a brush with Indian food in some form or the other, be it the infamous Chicken Tikka or ever popular Vindaloo most people have little to no idea about the cuisine of the North East. Unfortunately, this is applicable within our own country too, where the subtleties and deliciousness of this cuisine are yet to make a splash in most Indian states.
Starting out was a bit risky because Naga cuisine was so incredibly foreign to the local residents who were initially hesitant. ‘What with all the bones and fats and smelly things in our cuisine, but people are also very curious to learn and try new things,’ says Lulu. However, it soon became a local favourite and the word quickly spread. ‘Once they tried it they always come back for more,’ Lulu assured us. She caters to both the herbivores and carnivores but far and away one of the most loved dishes is Guakjan Le Pukma Gan (smoked pork in pumpkin sauce), a great veggie option is the Panthau Gen (eggplant curry). All her dishes are served with rice which makes for a full and hearty meal.
Lulu also offers other services such as home cooking and catering which includes other cuisines such as French, Italian or Asian. So if ever you’re struggling with the idea of cooking for a party she will come to your home and whip up a feast made with fresh ingredients and lots of love. Her favourite part of the job is seeing the smiles her food puts on peoples’ faces. Hopefully, Lulu’s venture will put North-Eastern food on the international radar and if we’re really lucky we might get to see similar trucks cruising the streets of Mumbai so we can all revel in the soul food of the North East.
Featured Image Courtesy: Facebook – Lulu’s Tribal Kitchen
Words: Shireen Jamooji