For the past one year, we have been through multiple phases of lockdown. It won’t be unfair to say that this has caused many problems related to the availability of food and other essential items. Whereas rice and pulses can be stored for a long time, we usually run out of vegetables. This is where traditional Tripuri knowledge comes to play.
The indigenous tribes of Tripura have been dependent on planting their own vegetables for many centuries. Unlike now when many vegetables are available the year around, earlier vegetables were seasonal. Some vegetables grew in winters and some in summer/monsoon. However, the indigenous people came up with the idea of drying and smoking the vegetables to keep them available year round. Today I want to share some of the vegetables that can be dried and eaten for several months. I will also share a recipe as to how to cook these dried vegetables so that they taste delicious.
The vegetables that can be dried are: Radish cut into round slices, beans whole, bambooshoots, mushrooms, khamkha (a very bitter berry found in North-East India), bitter gourd, bottle gourd, and batema (a kind of yam that is boiled and mashed into cakes). You can also smoke them but for that you will need a firewood stove which is not possible in cities. Dry the vegetables in the sun for 2-5 days and then store them in airtight containers. They will stay fresh for upto a year. Before using them to cook, just soak them in warm water for ten minutes and they will come back to life.
The recipe I am sharing is called Chakhwi. It is a name commonly given to a dish that is cooked with cooking soda that gives it a slightly pungent taste. Chakhwi is a famous dish and is made using a variety of vegetables. Today I will cook them using dried vegetables that I had earlier stored in my pantry.
Dried vegetables—bambooshoots, beans, batema, baikang (a local vegetable), muitu (a yam stem), khamkha sikam and thalibo bwlai (local leafy vegetable). Please note that you can substitute the vegetables depending on your taste and availability. You will also need salt, soda, chillies, fermented fish, and rice flour.
First we shall cut the vegetables into smaller pieces and soak them in warm water for ten minutes so they become soft.
Now in a pan add two glasses of water and put it on the stove. Grind some chilies and add them to the water. Let the water come to a boil.
Add some salt to taste and 2-3 pieces of fermented fish.
Once the water starts boiling, add all the vegetables to the pan. Close the lid and let it cook for 10 minutes.
Once the vegetables are half-cooked, add a small teaspoon of soda. Don’t add too much or the dish will become too salty. Note: In Tripura we make soda by filtering water through ash. I add a cup of the soda water.
Once the vegetable is cooked, add the rice flour paste to thicken the gravy.
Cook for 5 more minutes and the amazing Chakhwi is ready!
Many of the vegetables that are dried are found during the summers and preserved to be eaten in winters. This is how the people of Tripura consume nutritious food all year round.
This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.