East Indian Cuisine
If there is one part of India where the food is completely natural, fresh and utterly breathtaking, it is the east. East Indian Cuisine is easily one of the healthiest forms of cuisines in the country and is entirely dependent on local produce as most parts are quite cut-off from the rest of the country. The "separate" nature of most states in this region has led to the development of local methods of cooking, using local produce like Bamboo shoots, fish, duck, etc. in the creation of delightful dishes that are more about the natural taste of the ingredients rather than the spices added to them.
In fact, it is this very spice-less or limited-spice characteristic of East Indian Cuisine that really gives it the edge over other forms of cooking in India. In fact, where other forms of Indian cuisine might be influenced by each other to a certain extent, the further you head eastwards, the lesser you see of that influence.
Different Influences on East Indian Cuisine
As you start your journey towards the eastern parts of India, you encounter the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa (or Odisha) - all agriculture rich-states with a heavy sea-food flavour in West Bengal and Orissa. However, the further you go, beyond West Bengal, the harsher the conditions get as the states, from there on, start rising in altitude and sit in the lap of the Himalayan Mountain Range. That means, harvest seasons are shorter, agricultural produce is lesser and the reliance on river-systems, for meat, is extremely high.
It isn't uncommon to find pork, fish and duck-based dishes when it comes to the extreme eastern states and dishes like Naga Fish Curry and Poora Haah (a pork dish) are quite common. The other element that becomes really common, in these extreme-eastern states, is the use of local, unusual, produce like Bamboo. Young bamboo shoots find their way into a significant number of dishes along with herbs like Asian Pennywort. Even the temperature has a lot of influence as these regions tend to be quite cold and rainy for large chunks of the year.
Fishing, in lakes and rivers, is a primary source of food while states along the coastline (West Bengal and Orissa) also use crustaceans a lot, especially in dishes like Crab Curry.
The Best of East Indian Cuisine
It is quite hard to come up with a list of few dishes that can be touted as the top-most dishes from East Indian Cuisine simply because the range is extremely large! In Bihar and Jharkhand, there are a lot of vegetarian dishes while the meat-preparations are nothing like anything in other parts of the country. However, both states are dominated by the working-class and meat, as a result, is a luxury. That said, vegetarian dishes like Chole Bhature are mind-bogglingly good and are the essence of what street-food in India is all about!
Bhuna Kalezi or roasted/fried liver is one of the big favourites to come out of the state of Jharkhand and gives a unique, spicy twist to the traditional British delicacy - liver and onions. West Bengal, on the other hand, is a beautiful amalgamation of a lot of different styles including Punjabi, Mughlai and even Chinese cuisines. They take the best of every world and add their own touch, especially with a generous helping of mustard, in its various forms, to give their own little twist. So, you can find everything you find elsewhere in India, in West Bengal, but with a little "Bengali Touch!"
The far-eastern states are about a lot of different kinds of heady soups that come loaded with vegetables, meat and even noodles. This makes for a very healthy treat but ideal for the colder conditions that prevail in these regions. The terrain, lack of proper infrastructure and harder life, in general, requires food that is more effective than luxurious.
India is a country with a lot of different types of cuisine and East Indian Cuisine, in itself, has a lot of diversity to boast of. It is, therefore, the most fascinating form of cuisine in the entire country and also the most simple and easy to cook.