In the heart of Meghalaya, a land of diverse identities and cultures, lies a hidden treasure — the rich culinary heritage of the Khasi people. Bursting with unique flavours and created with locally sourced ingredients, Khasi food offers a gourmet experience like no other. At the forefront of showcasing this exquisite cuisine to the world are sisters Daphimanroi (Daphi) and Dakiwanri (Daki) Warjri, the culinary duo behind Symbai, a home chef enterprise that takes you on a delectable journey through the flavors of Shillong.
Symbai, a name that resonates with the essence of beginnings, aptly translates to 'seed' in the Khasi language. For Daphi and Daki, it signifies not only the origin of all food but also their deep-rooted pride in their Khasi ancestry. Their culinary adventure began unexpectedly, with a pop-up event at Molasses in Puducherry, spurred on by a friend's encouragement which soon paved the way for more pop-ups in Puducherry and Mumbai. Driven by the positive feedback, the growing curiosity about Khasi cuisine's distinctiveness within the North East Indian culinary landscape, and the traction they received, they officially launched Symbai in March.
Khasi cuisine, often misconceived as uniformly spicy due to the popularity of the bhut jolokia chilli from Assam, surprises with its simplicity instead of heat, which is actually only occasionally present via pickles and chutneys. With a penchant for plain and straightforward flavours, it incorporates sparingly used spices, predominantly turmeric and pepper, while the jingshoh, a mix of turmeric, garlic, and onion, forms the base for most dishes. Influenced by Southeast-Asian migration to Meghalaya, Khasi cuisine introduces unique elements such as fermented soybean, fermented fish, perilla seeds, and black sesame. It remains seasonally intertwined, featuring foraged ingredients like wild mushrooms, reflecting its adaptability across various sub-tribes and regions in the Khasi Hills.
With a strong Southeast-Asian influence, stemming from their believed migration to Meghalaya from those parts, Khasi cuisine boasts unique elements such as fermented soybean (tungrymbai), fermented fish (tungtap), perilla seeds, and black sesame. Additionally, Khasi food is deeply intertwined with the seasons and often features foraged ingredients like wild mushrooms. The culinary landscape varies across the sub-tribes of different regions in the Khasi Hills, showcasing the diversity and adaptability of the cuisine to locally available ingredients.
Daphi and Daki, who divide their time between Shillong and Mumbai are on a mission to elevate Khasi food beyond the shadow of other North Eastern cuisines and firmly establish it on the culinary map. With their unique blend of traditional and contemporary dishes, featuring ingredients like lakadong turmeric, wild mushrooms, and black sesame seed paste, they offer not just a meal but a Khasi food experience that's a testament to their culture, identity, and the rich culinary practices of Meghalaya.
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