With a motto, “Back to The Roots”: Lulu Pheiga is bringing back the Beauty of Indian Tribal Cuisine
Indian cuisine doesn’t need any grand introduction. Our cuisine showcases mélanges of many cultures. India is a land of exotic flavors. People crave for our contrasting style of cooking. Indian flavors and cooking style differs from region to region. And when we talk about cooking the role of women is momentous. But when we speak about professional cooks in the food industry, the numbers of women chefs are few. In the past, women chefs were often overlooked, underestimated or dismissed without any genuine reasons. But time is changing; women are once again coming out of their shells of responsibilities, traditions and standardize lookouts. Nowadays, women are playing with their strengths and creating their own image.
Here is a tale of one of such young lady, Lulu Pheiga, who has brought a fresh flavor to the culinary scene of Genk, Belgium. She created a new mixture of two contrasting elements and came up with a unique idea – Nagaland’s native dishes.
The story of Lulu’s Tribal Kitchen
Indians and Indian cuisine have always been very popular internationally. Whether foreigners visit our country or we set up food joints in their country, Indian cuisine is drool worthy to them. But Indian food abroad is usually associated with north India items like Dal Makhani, Chicken tikkas, and Butter chicken. But Lulu Pheiga, an enterprising young (Naga) lady is creating modern waves with her food truck in Belgium. She introduced some lesser known dishes from the northeast India that would have been confined to the tribal belts of the region. Her ethnic Naga food is arousing their senses and leaving them craving for more.
Landimliu Pheiga Gangmei aka Lulu grew up in one of the most attractive states of India, Manipur. Her grandeur and simplicity is her most captivating feature. Born and brought up in Imphal, she remembers her childhood filled with happiness and love. Her favorite pass time was sliding down the hills, dancing in the rain, picnicking in the paddy fields. She remembers her childhood with happiness and pride, she says, “I wouldn’t change a thing.” After finishing her schooling in her hometown, she moved to New Delhi, for further studies. With degree in hospitality, she had worked for the now defunct, inoperative Kingfisher airlines.
Before starting Lulu’s Tribal Kitchen, she had also worked on a cruise line that operated in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Alaska.
The young entrepreneur with a different taste…..
Lulu belongs to Rongmei tribe and she is proud to represent them in Belgium through her cuisine. She wanted to do something different and her inspiration came from her husband Bob Staal, who was a great fan of her tribal dishes. Moreover, she coupled the quirky idea with a food truck, a concept yet to get hold of its roots in India. When Lulu and Bob started the pursuit, they expected they would create a stir with such a new concept. But the reality was just unexpected and opposite to their expectations. People were much cautioned to taste the so-called “naga/tribal” cuisine. But they were not sad or regretful. Lulu didn’t lose hope. She knew it was a challenge, and she was ready to face it. She started to educate the people about her cuisine and her tribe. Her own heritage was at sake she didn’t allow small hurdles to stop her way. For her, the truck represents her tribal Naga heritage. All thanks to Lulu’s dedication now the lesser known flavors are getting a platform to showcase for on the world map.
Authentic Northeastern dishes like Utti, Chilli Pork, Gan huai ( Naga sticky rice), and Panthao gan ( Naga aubergine curry) is quite a rage with not only Indians who reside there but also Belgians too have started to enjoy her dishes.
Her dishes are her pride and she is overwhelmed by the way her business has prospered. It had been three years since she had started her small business but it had come a long way. Lulu is always on the search for new and authentic dishes. After working for six months in summer she comes back to India in search for future projects. For her, the happiness that she brings to people with her food is more vital than the revenue collected. Her contentment lies in her food, she says, for me, “I enjoy cooking tribal style… from the heart, not weighing or measuring anything.”