After 15 hours on a train, heading from Siliguri to Dimapur, we arrive in Nagaland, on the northeastern edge of India. I am traveling with Simon, a professor from Chennai. It is here in Nagaland that ancient tribes (belonging to Indo-Mongoloid stock) are known for their fierce ways. They used to practice head hunting. Each competing tribe would demonstrate their prowess and cunning by showing off their collected heads. If a member of the tribe wanted to marry, he would often have to bring the head of another tribe to his future father in law to get his blessing. Even during WW II, the Japanese crossed from nearby Burma and employed the Nagas to fight the British.
Enough history. After our long journey, Simon and I are ready for a sizeable meal. Chai and bananas are the main food on the train. Simon comes to the north often, so he takes me to a favorite haunt. I am expecting a variety of possibilities–curry and rice dishes, Asian noodles, bamboo shoots, etc. My mouth is salivating. I love Indian food.
This particular restaurant serves only one main dish. All I can say is that it is different, and it might explain the stomach issues I will soon struggle with through the night. The meat has a different flavor, a cross between beef and mutton. A little tougher, but I must say the flavor is incredible. The meat is cooked in traditional Nagas spices. I have rarely tasted a dish so good. Not a lot of vegetables, but some wonderful Indian Nan bread to sop up the juices.
During the meal, I ask the server about the main dish. He tells me it is dog, but before I can show my disgust, he assures me it is very fresh. Unlike other owners who go to the market, he and his family keep the animals in pens in the back (sort of like in in Malaysia where you eat the shrimp that have just been taken out of the aquarium).
Of course I am a little taken back and unsure I can eat another bite. He is not surprised. It happens with most Americans (the few who ever visit this part of the world). I cannot help but inquire about the particular kind of dog I have feasted on, and he asks if I would like to see his stock (something I am told they are very proud of). It sort of reminds me of that Portlandia episode with the chickens. He promises me that their butchering process is humane. I decline to take advantage of his invitation, though I must do it in a way that does not shame him. I tell him I will take the pleasure of visiting the dogs next time.
Some cheaper restaurants use strays, but this restaurant specializes in purebreds. In some regions of Nagaland they actually have dog farms (they call them elahoamas) Think buying Salmon at Winco that have been raised on fish farms. I ask if they raise a particular breed, but he is unsure of my question. Simon guesses that most come from Tibet and are a cross between a wolf and a sheepdog. Unlike dachshunds (that have little meat, and they tend to be oily), these have a lot of meat on the bone.
In really fancy restaurants (I am told), they serve dogs more akin to German Shepherds. In fact (and I find this interesting), they have more of a schnitzel taste. I ask about Spaniels, and thankfully they are rare here. There is Terrier meat, but most of the Nagas find the taste repulsive. Terriers feed on vermin, so you can imagine the taste. You won’t find Terrier meat except in homes of a lower class.
It is an interesting experience. I tell Simon I will choose tomorrow’s venue. He seems okay with this, for I share the rest of my portion with him. It is a lot, so we ask for a doggy bag and leave.
Happy April 1.