Meet Lulu who Cooks Naga Tribal food in Belgium
Landimliu Pheiga Gangmei aka Lulu grew up in Imphal, Manipur. In 2012, she moved to Belgium and two years later, she started her own Food Truck—Lulu’s Tribal Kitchen. Being a lover of traditional Naga delicacies, Lulu thought of promoting it in the far away land as well.
Talking about how she found inspiration to start her food truck she said to SheThePeople.TV, “My husband was my inspiration, he loves our food. And in Europe food trucks are a big hype. People are looking for something new, something different for their taste buds. So we started the tribal kitchen which is a completely new concept here.”
In the beginning, Lulu and her husband, Bob Staal thought that it would create a stir in the market, but reality came out to be completely opposite.
“The very concept that it is something new and different was too much for the people. As they did not know about the so-called “tribal/naga” cuisine so they were very wary or cautious of it,” recalls Lulu.
But she took it as a challenge to educate the people about her tribe and its exotic food. “We started with educating about the Naga tribes and where we come from, our culture and everything. We really enjoyed doing it, but it was also a difficult time for us regarding our income,” she added.
Born and brought up in Imphal, Manipur, in a family of 2 brothers and 4 girls Lulu looks back into her childhood as a happy one. Dancing in the rain, sliding down the hills, picnicking in the paddy fields, looking for fire woods are some of her favourite things.
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” says Lulu.
Lulu completed schooling in her hometown and then moved to the capital, New Delhi for higher studies. She has a degree in hospitality and has worked for the now defunct Kingfisher airlines. She worked on a cruise line that operated in the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Alaska before starting Lulu’s Tribal Kitchen.
Lulu is part of the Rongmei tribe and is proud to represent them in Belgium through her work. She informs, “We are settled mostly in Manipur and some part of Nagaland and Assam. Our biggest festival is Gan-Ngai (post-harvest festival) celebrated annually between December and January.”
The initial two years after coming to Belgium, she taught herself the new language and before becoming a restaurateur.
Lulu’s Tribal Kitchen is now over three-year-old and she is ecstatic about the way it is prospering.
“Business is doing great. We are still educating people about our concept but we are not strangers anymore. A lot of people recognize us at festivals and tell us that they have been eating our food for the past three days, etc,” she laughs.
“Lulu’s Tribal Kitchen is doing great. We are still educating people about our concept but we are not a stranger anymore. A lot of people recognize us at festivals and tell us that they have been eating our food for the past three days etc,”
Talking about the revenue, she has a very laid-back approach to it. “Profit wise, we don’t count it in a monthly basis. It is very seasonal. We work for about six months in the summer and we earn enough for the rest of the year. The other months we travel around in India and look out for future projects. Year after year income does increase and by the end of the year we are happy with the outcome.”
She manages to prepare the traditional food items in Belgium with organic ingredients. She says, “It is tough but not impossible. We can get a lot of things from the Asian shop here, indigenous herbs we collect from home. One of my friends planted raja mircha in her greenhouse which is growing very well.”
People love the Smoked Pork with Bamboo Shoots/ Pumpkin called Tribal Gun and Ootie or veggie delight—a mixture of chickpea and green pulse.
In her opinion, the best thing about cooking is when you make people happy when they taste your food. For me, “I enjoy cooking tribal style… from the heart, not weighting or measuring anything.”
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