The best way to eat the local food of Shillong
Updated: May 20, 2021
Planning a trip to Shillong? Want to try out the local cuisine but can't find it on a general search? Here is a local's guide to eating local food of the region.
In the recent years that have passed I have met many people who say they have travelled to Shillong when I introduce myself as hailing from the region. The one thing I most commonly hear is that they did not really find places to eat local food. This is why I thought of writing about it.
Well, the simple reason you don't find many 'restaurants' the local food you look for cooked at home; office goers carry their own lunch boxes or eat at the Jadoh Stalls. The "Restaurants" are of Indian or International Cuisine as they are places locals go to to eat out.
Unless you have local contacts or are invited to someone's home for a meal, I feel the best way to taste the local food is by visiting the Jadoh stalls which are found at every 5 paces. The reason is because on a daily basis Jadoh stalls have a range of rice preparations, salads, veggies, meat items to choose from. If you decide to eat there everyday you can choose what you want on a plate trying different combinations from the variety on display making it new and exciting
All Jadoh Stalls also sell tea because we love drinking tea - on an average people drink 3-4 cups a day if not more - but all tea stalls don't necessarily have a wide range of food items to choose from.
How will you know which stall to visit?
Easy. This is a general rule o'thumb my husband and I follow when we visit new places is to look for a stall that is bustling. Busy bustling, fast moving stalls are always a sign that the establishment has loyal regular customers and is well known. It means they have fresh food as they must be prepping fresh batches everyday to keep up with the consumers demands.
Stalls generally have signage with their proprietor's name and stall number. If the sign clearly says "Jadoh Stall" (like the picture above) or "Hangne die sha bad ja" (trans. we sell rice & tea here) it means that stall sells food too. There are also stalls that sell only tea & snacks.
How will I know what to order?
Most stalls have the food on display behind glass counters. You just have to point towards the items you want - like add-ons! Having said that you wouldn't know the difference, especially between meats so just ask! Ask fellow customers to help you out or even the vendor. Even if they cannot speak fluent English or Hindi they will still point out which of the items are veg, chicken or pork.
Food is always made fresh daily as they are sold out by the end of the day. Vegetarian options and salads are based on the seasonal produce around the time. Our style of salads isn't full of leafy greens or doused in mayo - rather - a mix of fresh raw vegetables like radish or tomato, boiled potato or banana blossoms with a standard mix of raw onion, chillies & ginger plus ground perilla seed.
Vegetarian options include sautéed greens like saag or native/wild greens. There are also more identifiable options like okra or green beans and fried potatoes. Apart from that there are atleast 3-4 chutney's to choose from like mint, cilantro and even dry fish, Tungtap (NV).
Meat items are aplenty - meatballs (doh shaiñ), chicken curry (syiar kylla), black sesame pork or giblets (doh nei ïong or doh jem), clear soup, shredded chicken or pork mix (khleh) and so on.
There are also options in rice - yes rice! Plain steamed white rice or native red rice, turmeric rice (ja stem) or jadoh (cooked with meat)
Lastly, tea. Like I mentioned we drink A LOT of tea, mostly black but milk tea is also an option. If you see local ladies (kongs) walking with big kettles and a basket in hand, they are serving tea. They do rounds at nearby offices or institutions around their stall offering a cup of tea and some snacks which are usually rice based snacks or sweet treats.
How much does it cost?
Personally I think they're very cheap and reasonable. The base rate is for rice and soup and the price of your plate is the sum of the add ons. Vegetarian items are cheaper than meat obviously so the add ons range from rs. 5 to 10 to 15 at max per item. So even if you pile up your plate it will most likely be under a 100 bucks; eat more helpings with lots of meat - maybe 200 bucks. A cup of tea to wash is all down ? 5 to 10 rupees.
For reference, the plate on the left has red rice, clear soup, steamed greens, fried potato, black sesame pork, banana blossom salad and the winter delicacy of fermented bean paste (tungrymbai) The plate on the right had ja doh and extra doh khleh & doh jem. This costed us approx. 200 rupees in total.
Like I said, every few paces there will be a food stall however concentrated hot spots are always around offices & institutions or big market hubs. Police Bazaar, Laitumkhrah, Secretariat & the Court, the biggest market hub being Bara Bazaar or Iewduh - the main market for everything, literally everything! but it is an absolute maze you can get lost in and I wouldn't recommend going there, at least not without a local who knows every exit.
The pictures I had taken were at a stall at this very market, in a corner I never would have found without this aunt who knows the market inside out.
Personally, I liked Trattoria in the main market of Police Bazaar because I could take my guests shopping and give them a taste of the local food at the same time - it's convenient! Variety wise, the stall with the largest variety of items that I have ever come across is located bang opposite the main entrance of NEIGRIHMS hospital, Kharir Stall.
For the best and most famous Smoked Pork (Doh Thad), the stalls along the main road leading to Cherrapunji is where you will find it. The village of Mylliem is the stop. It is on the way to Cherrapunji and has a cluster of shops like a little market and the road signs before it to guide you.
I hope this helps anyone who wants to travel to Shillong or wants to explore the local food there. Food I believe, connects people, connects the world which is why I love it and decided to join the profession. That's all for today, khublei shibun! (thank you)