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A hangout for Singpho delicacies

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RIPUNJOY DAS   |   Published 03.02.04, 12:00 AM

Margherita, Feb. 3: Bored of dining at the ubiquitous Chinese restaurant? Tingle your palate with a Singpho platter, for a change.

Pungkhong sat, pasa, kumusi, wu hkawng, sat sapung or khawlam, some of the traditional Singpho dishes that one can expect to be served during a visit to any village of the tribe, can now be sampled at a quaint restaurant called Singpho Villa.

Located just a km off this coal town under Tinsukia district, Singpho Villa is the culmination of a dream nurtured by a farmer from the tribe. Rajesh Singpho’s restaurant, which is unlike any of the eateries along the National Highway 38, has already become the favourite hangout of diners looking for exotic fare.

The Singphos are scattered across the Patkai range, stretching from Margherita subdivision and Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh to parts of Myanmar and Yunnan province of China. The lifestyle of the tribe, described by several British chroniclers as the fiercest, is unique.

Rajesh, who hails from a village that is 25 km from Margherita, said he set up Singpho Villa to give people from other communities a taste of wholesome tribal cuisine at an affordable price.

“It is the outcome of a wish I nurtured for three years,” Rajesh, who started the restaurant with very little funds, said.

The restaurant serves only Singpho delicacies and the ambience is appropriately rustic, though Rajesh reminds everyone that he has not dispensed with any of the basic amenities his patrons expect, “including a back-up generator”.

Dibrugarh-based businessman Santanu Sarmah, who sampled the Singpho Villa fare recently, said he was impressed. “This is something I had always wanted: a restaurant where one can partake of good food without having to worry about whether it will upset your stomach.”

Describing what goes into the making of a Singpho delicacy, Rajesh said: “Most of the Singpho dishes are made of naturally grown products and the spices we use for preparing the dishes have several medicinal benefits and no side-effects.”

The dishes on the menu, which changes with the season, include kumusi, which is a potpourri of wild mushrooms, potatoes and a sticky kind of rice cooked inside the hollow of a bamboo. “Wild mushrooms and the species of bamboo in which the rice is to be cooked are available only between March and August, which I have indicated in the menu,” Singpho Villa’s owner said.

Pasa, a fish soup containing wild herbs and traditional spices, is another novelty. “One portion of the soup costs just Rs 100 and is enough for five persons,” Rajesh said.

Encouraged by the response to his restaurant, Rajesh is planning to expand it into a “full-fledged eco-tourism centre where one can get a feel of the Singpho way of life”.

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