You’ve heard of Uttar Pradesh’s Lathmaar Holi or the Sikh festival of Hola Mohalla in Punjab, but did you know that the festival of colours is equally celebrated with great fervour and spirit in the northeastern state of Manipur?
Yaoshang, the Manipuri Holi festival, is celebrated for five days commencing from the full moon day of Phalguna (Friday).
The spirit of Yaoshang reverberates in the capital with some finger-licking food at Rosang. Located in south Delhi’s Green Park and owned by Mary Lalboi and her husband Muan Tonxing, Rosang celebrates the festive spirit by serving authentic Manipuri delicacies made specially for the occasion.
The restaurant has a homely ambiance. The walls are decorated with photos about the culture, customs and lifestyle of the Manipuri people.
"Holi is widely celebrated in Manipur. Food festivals like this are an attempt to provide a homely feel to those who are far away from their family," Lalboi told IANS.
The owner, a good cook herself, added that Rosang equally celebrates other festivals from northeast by hosting niche food festivals.
"All the spices and herbs are brought from Manipur to give an authentic touch to our food. Rosang is an attempt to promote the traditional foods of northeastern states under one roof," added Lalboi who is not in favour of a bar or live music in her restaurant.
As I sat in the wooden chair table for dining, I was welcomed with the speciality of the food festival – the Yaoshang thali.
The variety of food in the thali left me bewildered about where to begin the meal.
Starting from the beverages to desserts, the thali comprised 13 delicacies – all authentic Manipuri dishes.
As I began to tuck in the dishes, I was mesmerised by the well-maintained balance between the rich taste and the homely flavour.
Chaak hao chaa, a hot beverage made of Manipuri red rice, floored me, followed by the khazing singju shrimp salad.
The starter, made of lotus root, cabbage, banana flower, yellow pea, sweet potatoes and shrimp, had the ingredients combining well.
For the main course, I opted for the traditional Manipuri red rice, keeping aside the usual white rice.
To begin the meal, I was served the seasonal kangsoi stew, a simple vegetarian dish, light in taste, along with yen angouba mahi – fried chicken gravy – which was spicy with a strong hint of tamarind.
Turning to Manipuris’ favourite non-vegetarian item – fish – I was served nga taoba or fried fish along with khazing metpa, a shrimp-based chutney made by combining burnt shrimp and green chillies, fish paste and strong aromatic Manipuri leaves.
Next on the menu was nga rin kha – fish entrails deep fried with masalas, garlic and onions.
Accompanying this was iromba insang, a simple delicacy made of seasonal vegetables and fish paste.
The delicacies were so appetising that I continued to gorge myself without a thought. And, to bring a change in taste, I decided to switch to a vegetarian item – soibum ooti, a gravy-based dish made of yellow peas and bamboo shoots.
Next came the nga thongba fish curry – a reminder of home-cooked food, rich in taste, and yen angouba – tender chicken pieces deep fried with coriander leaves and Manipuri masalas.
Though there was not much space left in my stomach, I could not resist gorging on the final dish of the Yaoshang thali – the kheer made of Manipuri red rice mixed with milk and garnished with raisins.
The sweet touch acted as a saviour after so many spicy dishes.
The Yaoshang food festival began March 3 and will continue till March 15.
Cost of Yaoshang thali: Rs 799 (serves two, without alcohol)
Location: Green Park, near (now shut) Uphaar cinema.
Nearest Metro station: Green Park
Timings: 12.30 p.m.-11 p.m.