This Authentic Hot Sauce From Nagaland Will Soon Be Available Across India - Homegrown

This Authentic Hot Sauce From Nagaland Will Soon Be Available Across India

A few days ago I finally got the chance to have the Raja Mircha hot sauce, I had been hearing so much about. It was at a tiny nondescript North East Indian Store in Mumbai, where the owner encouraged me to try it. I dipped my finger in the fiery mixture and slowly licked it. Within seconds my mouth was burning and my face had turned a bright shade of red. I liked the eclectic taste but the hot chilli was something that my taste buds or palette just couldn’t take. When the shop owner, a Naga himself, told me that this sauce was a daily part of their meal, I was taken aback. I then realized that there was a serious dearth of good hot sauce in the Indian mainland — one of the reasons we had no access to them. While we all had devoured into homemade chutneys made from indigenous chilies, the concept of hot sauce in retail in India is limited to the feeble emulsified Tobasco, despite India being the world’s largest producer, consumer and exporter, with a 36 per cent of global supply. While the North East Indian States are itself cut from the mainland- politically and culturally, it’ culinary traditions walk the same precarious ropes. The 7 sisters are home to few of the hottest chillies in the world — the Bhut Jolokia and the Naga Rajamircha being two of them and both have immense commercial potential.

Image Credit: Morung Express
Image Credit: Morung Express

Enter Zatara Pvt Ltd. (ZTPL), a Nagaland based food processing, manufacturing and trading SME that was established in 2013. ZTPL was started by Sentinaro Alley, Apong Longkumer and Sonam Khulu with a shared vision of of creating and marketing value added agri products from Nagaland and the other North Eastern States. Their champion product is the ‘Chuka Seriously Hot Sauce Naga Mircha’. Made from ingredients like Naga Mircha ( aka King Chilli), Naga Ginger, Garlic , Vinegar and Salt, put together to process in a secret manner, the Chuka Seriously Hot Sauce Naga Mircha stands true to its name. Talking about what makes their hot sauce unique from others, Sonam Kholu, co-founder and managing director says,“I guess what makes us standout is our unique taste and flavour. Although similar to the other products, we source our Naga Mircha straight from the farmers of Peren District in Nagaland —home to best variety of Naga Mirchas in the North East. We do not use any chemical preservatives and process our Hot Sauce in small batches, that reach market shelves after a month of processing and quality checks. The result is a lip-smacking, flavourful, fresh and seriously hot sauce.”

Image Credit: Morung Express
Image Credit: Morung Express

The Naga Mircha and the Bhut Jholakia are among the hottest chillis in the world and have a huge export market. It is an acquired taste for most people, but Sonam believes that the people absolutely love it here in Nagaland. Presently there are a few Bhut Jholokia Hot Sauces like the Dalle (Sikkim) Hot Sauce available in the market alongside the plethora of imported hot sauces. However, there was a general dearth of value added products with only a few varieties of pickles available in the market. Furthermore, most of the hot sauces available, don’t really tantalize our taste buds. Hence Zatara came up with the idea of making a toned down but flavourful Naga Mircha Hot Sauce, that can be consumed not only with Naga Food, but with other cuisines as well.

The Chuka Seriously Hot Naga Mircha Sauce is the first instance of sauce offering bottled and marketed in Nagaland — something which has taken too long to materialize in this state. Responding to this, Sonam says, “There are myriad reasons for this. Our state is bogged down by serious infrastructure shortcomings that have discouraged and stifled private enterprise in the State, and continue to do so. Moreover, until recent years, the Food Processing Industry has been practically non-existent and limited to local and regional markets at best. For all practical purposes there are no auxiliary or supplementary business to support the Food Processing Industry like logistics, cold storage, packaging etc. Furthermore, it is extremely difficult for start ups like ours to procure finance from banks or VCs, with even approved Govt schemes and loans taking forever to be released.”

However with many agri-products like Naga Mircha, ginger, pineapple, wild apple, oranges, cardamom etc, gaining popularity outside of the North East and many restaurants mushrooming in the metros and other commercial hubs, Zatara has been highly motivated to find their space in this highly competitive specialty foods market. Though they are marketing the Chuka Seriously Hot Sauce only in the North East as of now, they plan to start distribution in major cities by early next year. They are also currently working another variant of Hot Sauce which they plan to launch by the next Financial Year.

ZTPL has been able to successfully create a market chain by engaging and collaborating with the farmers and several Women Self Help Groups at the grass root level. Their operations are focused on creating a reliable Value Chain and consistent marketing link for local agricultural products to the national and global markets. ZTPL has adopted a holistic approach of supporting economic activity across the agribusiness value chain, through strategic partnerships and investments. In doing they have also been able to generate much needed employment opportunities and auxiliary income with their associate and partner agencies.

The 7 sisters have a lot to offer specially in terms of food and culture. In fact, every state has numerous tribes and communities that have their own rich, wholesome and sustainable food traditions and habits— all of which needs to be brought out. Sonam says,

“The Government has been making several efforts through various specialized schemes for Organic Food, Horticulture, Food Processing etc, but even we as citizens need to do more. I guess more food festivals and events can be organized where ethnic cuisines from various North Eastern States can be showcased. Also there is a major misconception about our eating habits, for example our fermented food items ( fish and soyabean), or dog meat etc. but actually most of our cuisine is very healthy as our diet consist of mostly boiled food stuff and organically grown vegetables . Awareness and the right marketing is the key.”

For more details check out Zatara’s Facebook page here.

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