Ask a northeasterner, “what’s your take on a mouthwatering dish?” Pat comes the answer, “axone, kinema, bekang, hawaijar,peruyaan, tungrymbai!” The names may seem varied but the basic funda of all these is yours truly the humble “soyabean” fermented till it smells right, Ouch!
The smell ofcourse may distract many a mainlander though we may have some affiocioniadoes in the hindi heartland who share this unrequited love and passion for a food that not only tastes heavenly but also produces the aroma of a lifetime.
Soyabean is grown as a mixed crop mainly in the terraced hill slopes of the eastern Himalayas, cultivated with no difficulty since it’s a hardy leguminous plant. The seeds after drying is then prepared into this sticky, smelly concoction that carries a variety of names according to the region or the state where it is consumed.
Known as akhuni, this is a signature dish of the Nagas. In Nagaland the seeds of the soyabean are cooked and wrapped in Banana leaves and left to ferment over the fireplaces for several days. After 5-7 days the fermented beans are either consumed fresh or sundried and stored for future use.
Axone with Smoked Pork
Smoked pork (cut into 1″ cubes)- ½ kg
Black sesame seeds – 2 tablespoon
Axone – 1 tablespoon
Garlic cloves – 4 Nos
Naga ginger – 1 inch piece
Red chilly powder – 1 tablespoon
Salt to taste
Roast the diced smoked pork in it’s own fat till the oil oozes out. Add the salt, garlic, red chilly powder and cook till the meat is cokked.
In a separate pan roast the black sesame seeds and pound them coarsely.Then add the sesame seeds and the axone (fermented soya beans) to the meat and cook for about 10-15 minutes.
Garnish with sliced Naga ginger juliens.
Serve hot with steamed rice.
Kinema is relished by the Nepalis of eastern Nepal, Darjeeling, Southern Bhutan and parts of Sikkim. The small sized soyabeans are soaked overnight in water. Next day the beans are boiled till cooked and then ground or split open to a rough paste on the wooden grinders called “okhli”. This splitting of the cooked soyabean happens only with the “kinema” before setting aside for fermentation. The cracked beans are then placed in bamboo baskets on fern leaves with a sprinkling of firewood ash. The same is kept aside for a day or two and lo and behold the smell emanates with the right offense for the nose of the untamed. Kinema is then either consumed fresh or sun-dried and stored for future use. The rural women of these areas have converted this smelly concoction into a cottage industry where kinema is sold both fresh, dried or in a pickled form in the local “haats”
Kinema Ko Jhol
Dry Kinema – 1 cup
Onion – 1 medium aized
Garlic cloves 1 – 3
Tomatoes – 2 medium sized
Turmeric powder – 1 teaspoon
Vegetable oil – 3 tablespoon
Fresh Coriander leaves – coarsely chopped
Salt to taste
Rinse and soak the dry Kinema in two cups of clean water for 10-15 mins.Drain the soaked Kinema.
In a pan, heat the oil in medium heat, add the onions and fry alongwith the garlic until slightly brown.Add the turmeric powder alongwith the drained Kinema and fry it for around 2-3 minutes. Add the sliced tomatoes and salt (according your taste) and cook it for other 3-4 minutes. Add some water and cook it for around other 6-8 minutes. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
Serve hot with steamed rice.
This is almost a replica of the kinema but without the split beans, bekang is the name for the fermented soyabean preparation from the Blue hills of Mizoram. The Mizos will swear by its taste and aroma. The overnight soaked and boiled beans are fermented in bamboo baskets wrapped in locally grown fern leaves. Once the right aroma exudes the same is consumed fresh.
Potatoes – 4 Nos diced
Cokking Soda – ½ teaspoon
Bekang (dry) – 1 teaspoon
Ginger (sawhthing) – 1 inch piece
Garlic (purunvar)- 4 cloves
Peppercorn (hmarchapui) – 4 nos
Ladyfingers (bawrhsaiabe) – a few
Cabbage (zikhlum) – a few leaves
Beans – a few
Butter/ pork fat – 1 tablespoon
Boil five cups of water, add all the vegetables (potatoes, beans, etc. Cook for about 10-15 minutes and then add the pepper corns, garlics, ginger slices, bekang and the pork fat/ butter along with the cooking soda.
Keep stirring the mixture till the vegetables are fully cooked
Serve hot with rice.
The soyabean seeds soaked overnight and boiled are packed into bamboo baskets lined with leaves from a local fig tree known as “assee heibong” though sometimes the banana leaves are also used. These baskets are kept aside near the warm foreplaces for 3-4 days to produce the deliciously aromatic Hawaijar which are relished by the people of Manipur. Eaten either fresh or stored after sun drying, this is also available in the local markets.
Hawaijar akangpa Metpa (Green Chilly)
Hawaijar Akangba (Dried fermented soyabeans) – 1 tablespoon
Green Chilli – 2 thinly sliced
Onion – 1 chopped
Coriander – a bunch coarsely chopped
Spring onions – 2 chopped thin
Salt to taste
Wash the Hawaijar Akangba in water and cook in a little added water for about ten minutes. Add all other ingredients and mix well.
Serve as a side dish.
“Perun” means beans and “yannii” means packing in leaves in the local dialect of the Apatami tribe from Arunachal Pradesh. Here too the soyabeans are soaked overnight, boiled and then packed into bamboo baskets lined with local ginger leaves known as “taki yannii” and kept aside for 3-4 days for fermentation. The periyaan is considered fit for consumption depending on the stickyness of the concoction and not so much on the aroma that it exudes!
Peruyaan – 2 tablespoon
King Chillies/ Bhoot Jolokia – a handful
Grind the chillies coarsely. Mix it with the peruyaan and make a paste as in chutney style. Serve as a side dish or a chutney with hot rice.
The ethnic fermented soyabean preparation from the Khasi and the Garo Hills of Meghalaya, tungrymbai is prepared with the overnight soaked soyabeans which are later boiled and fermented in bamboo baskets lined with leaves of the local banana plant known as “lamet”.” This mixture is then boiled in water till the water evaporates, it is then mixed with onions, ginger, chillies and either consumed as a side dish or even pickled into bottles for future use.
Tungrymbai paste – 1 cup
Onions – 1 finely chopped
Sesame seed paste – 3 – 4 tablespoons
Turmeric – 1 teaspoon
Ginger (finely chopped) – 2 tablespoon
Red chilly paste – 1 teaspoon
Salt to taste
Take the Tungrymbai and mash a paste out of it and leave aside.
Add the oil in a pan and heat it, add the onions, let it turn turn golden brown and then add the sesame seed paste, turmeric powder and chilly paste. Keep frying till the oil separates. Now mix the soybean paste or tungrymbai alongwith the finely chopped ginger and salt.
A distinct aroma that emanates from the cooking signifies that it’s ready to eat.
Serve with hot rice.
Though the film “Axone” tries to draw a stirring satire against the discrimination of the north easterners in the capital city of Delhi by the mainlanders, there lies some truth somewhere in the stirring satirical dialogues and scenes of the movie which shows the agony of the discriminate and the discriminant revolving around the aroma and the smell of the fermented food that otherwise caters to supplement the local diet of the eastern Himalayan region with an inexpensive and highly digestible plant protein content that boasts of some health promoting properties besides catering to the economy of the rural women who make a living by selling this “smelly concoction” to the people who swear by their beans, come what may!!!
Cheers to a smell that could be served as a metaphor to the discrimination and repulsions of man against fellow humans!!!