Salangyanger is a Naga Chef who is putting the Naga cuisine on the world map! His cooking style incorporates different contemporary methods with traditional cooking and herbs. After winning the title of ‘Naga Chef’ at the 2015 Hornbill Naga Chef Contest, he released a cookbook which showcases traditional Naga recipes. Lately, he has been using his platform and skills to put Naga food in the limelight at the international scene.
Join us as we unravel Salangyanger’s journey from humble beginnings to international chef status!
Hello Yanger, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Salangyanger Jamir, a 29-year-old chef hailing from Mopungchuket village, Mokokchung; currently based in Kohima. I am a professional chef and I specialise in Japanese cuisine & Vegetable Carving. I have a cookbook called ‘Naga Appetite: A Collection of Essential Recipes’.
Salangyanger displaying his menu at V-Rox Expo, Vladivostok, Russia
Currently, I’m a freelance chef and have partnered up with a catering group called Aromatic Fusion, which is a catering service that aims to create recipes that make you ‘experiment with your taste buds’. I also conduct cooking classes and cooking workshops in and around Nagaland, so keep a look out for those!
Tell us about the journey of becoming a professional chef.
I had a very humble upbringing, completed my high school and intermediate studies from Kohima. Then I completed my 3 year higher diploma in International Hotel and Tourism, from RiG Institute of Hospitality and Management, Greater Noida, UP. I also have a B.A in tourism from IGNOU.
To get where I am today, I had to work very hard. Gradually I was able to get internships in hotels like The Grand, New Delhi, Leela Palace in Bengaluru & Crown Plaza Today in Gurgaon. I was appointed as Management Trainee (MT) at The Grand, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. They were all really great experiences for me.
How have your roots and your upbringing influenced you?
My parents were my greatest inspiration to cook! I remember the day my father taught me how to cook rice for the very first time and the great feeling of accomplishment I had then.
I grew up with the aroma of a typical Naga kitchen embedded in my senses. I often say ‘cooking is in my genes’ and it only had to be discovered!
My mother was a passionate cook and she taught me everything she knew. After my father passed away, my mother continued to be my source of encouragement and my two brothers became the subject of my food experiments. Later on, I was inspired by personalities like Jamie Oliver, Kylie, Kwong & Marco Pierre White and their healthy food recipes and often unconventional cooking style.
The recipe for Roasted Pork Intestine is available in Salayanger’s cookbook
You’re taking Naga ingredients to an international platform. How has the response been?
Just recently, I attended and participated in the Open Culture Festival V-Rox Expo which was held from June 21st-23rd in the beautiful city of Vladivostok, Russia. The theme of the festival was ‘Open art’. It was open to any idea and I took the opportunity of representing the unique and dynamic cultural cuisine of Nagaland.
I presented my two signature dishes namely Lang Lang Chicken, which is chicken marinated in Szechuan pepper served with sautéed lasagna and cherry tomatoes. The second was Porkshe which is deep fried pork garnished with nuoshi/anishi chutney (dried yam leaf cakes). The last was the local favorite- Bamboo Shoot Pork with Raja Mircha Chutney (king chilly) at Jimmy Jimmy Indian Restaurant, Vladivostok, Russia.
It was a true moment of joy to see people enjoying Naga food with great enthusiasm. The food prepared using ingredients such as dried bamboo shoot, local garlic, Szechuan pepper and king chili succeeded in pleasing the taste buds of the visitors. Not only did they appreciate the food but also suggested adding our Naga dishes on the restaurant menu.
Tell us about your cookbook. What inspired you to publish one?
Writing this book never crossed my mind before participating in the Hornbill Naga Chef Contest 2015. Only after winning the title of Naga Chef, the thought for writing a cookbook on Naga cuisine developed. Given the rich, vibrant and distinct Naga cooking style, I felt the necessity to work on a cookbook on Naga Cuisine.
The presence of diversities and variations in a single cuisine, and the use of rare spices and herbs are the two distinct features making Naga Cuisine stand out.
‘Naga Appetite’ by Salangyanger Jamir
What do you hope people take away from your recipes and cooking?
I want the authentic Naga ingredients and modern way of cooking to blend together and create unique fusion dishes that cater to both the local and the international gastronome. There is so much to our local Naga food that can leave people craving for more!
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