Rosang Cafe The Manipuri Thali at Rosang Cafe.
In an uncharacteristically quiet corner of New Delhi’s ever-changing Hauz Khas Village, Rosang Café dishes out hearty, home-style flavors from India’s eight northeastern states.
The café, with wooden floors and framed photos of the northeast on its walls, seats around 25-30 people at six tables in its main floor. A private room upstairs fits 8-10 people on one table.
Regional documentaries and music videos are shown on a flat screen television in the café, which opened in March. A trip here, up three floors in a concealed alley, feels like a holiday in the hills.
With a range of dishes from Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura, Rosang specializes in cuisines that are hard to come by in the Indian capital.
Its owner, Mary Lalboi, sources special herbs and spices used in northeastern cooking from Manipur. “These aren’t available in Delhi, but I wanted to maintain the authenticity of this food, so I get these herbs from back home,” she says.
The “Rosang Special” appetizer – pork spare ribs – set the stage for our dinner. A crispy, deep fried outer layer coating fatty chunks of pork, served with slivers of veggies and a fiery chili sauce. I applied the sauce in generous amounts and soon realized what all the fuss was about: the “Raja Mirchi” is among the hottest chilies in the world and used generously in northeastern cooking. It is delicious. The ribs are a must-have.
Diners can wash down this spice with a glass of murky, fermented rice beer. It’s an acquired taste that I’m still aspiring to acquire.
For mains, we ordered chicken and pork curries and a vegetable stew, along with two kinds of rice.
The chicken Kukhura Masu from Sikkim is a fresh curry in a light gravy of tamarind and coconut with a distinct flavor of special herbs. The simply named “Pork” from Nagaland came with a gravy of dry yam and fresh mustard leaves, bamboo shoots and soya bean. The unconventional mix of flavors came together beautifully in a mildly spicy gravy with melting pieces of meat.
The wild red rice is coarse, heavy and rich in iron, while the Jadoh – a staple of Meghalaya – is rice cooked with meat broth and served with, yes, more meat. Rosang’s Jadoh is done with wild red rice and pork, and while I did enjoy the hearty biryani-like flavor, it differed from the version I’ve tasted in Meghalaya.
The Bai, a particularly spicy mixed vegetable stew from Mizoram, was a fairly ordinary mix of boiled eggplant, beans and peppers. It’s scant consolation for vegetarians, but the meat and rice sections make up for this minor pitfall.
Rosang’s menu has a special section dedicated to chutney. Most of these are extremely spicy as the chef uses generous amounts of the King Chili. Worth a special mention is the Masoden from Tripura, a knockout chutney of burnt eggplant and fish sauce, doused generously with that hot, hot chili.
For dessert, we ordered wild red rice kheer – a dollop of gooey rice topped with coconut shavings, served in a cutesy tea cup. Not to be confused with the kheer we are used to, this version is much drier and not half as sweet.
The dishes cost between 275 rupees and 300 rupees ($4.60-$5.05) and each portion feeds two. Go for the warm service, a chat with the cheerful staff and the wholesome food that makes you feel like you’re at a friend’s house.
Address: 35, Hauz Khas Village. Go down the lane opposite Kunzum Café.