Updated: Aug 24, 2022
In the world of the Maram tribe of Manipur, gainam or chives is forever a frolicking vegetable. The lip-smacking, finger-licking, aromatic gainam salad has become synonymous with the region as many young people of various tribes, who visit the place for higher studies, carry back with them the word "gainam" sitting deliciously on their lips.
From time immemorial, gainam salad has been associated with anatomical movements, either in the form of field work, gardening, gathering firewood, or even fetching water from the village ponds; chores that are carried out in groups or by an entire family, and hardly in singularity. It is after a physically exhaustive exertion that people crave for the salad to be had along with rice-brewed-wine or tea, especially on a blistering summer day. Talk about gainam with a septuagenarian or an octogenarian, they would say that it’s the food of the young, and they would reminisce how they would savour it when they were young and strong with good metabolism. They would also describe dozens of nostalgic events where they had a hearty party with just gainam, and provide exciting information about the exact spot, time of the day, and the people they were with.
Gainam, staying true to its youthful characteristics is scarcely eaten during the morning or evening meals. It is a salad that has made a niche for itself in the lunch. A youthful companion to picnics or outdoor potlucks, it is eaten to the tune of guitars and great singing and dancing. It is a dish that loves joyful sounds, bringing the hills, fields and streams alive with cheer. It is a friendship creator and relationship builder. It would be fair to say that gainam has also officially registered itself with the young folks that love to watch beautiful sunset at sunset points, under the shed of branching trees and stone seaters, where lovers make and break promises.
Unlike other recipes, there is no measuring out of ingredients in tablespoons, teaspoons, and cups or a weighing scale. Gainam can be made using green vegetables, but, the chives is the cheerleader and the clincher of the salad. Other vegetables include: taro stem, lemon mint, fish mint, cilantro, bitter tomato, water dropwort, country ginger with its stem, cherry tomato, centella asiatica, green chili, king chili, and salt
The first step is to wash the vegetables thoroughly and drain them completely. It is advisable to sun dry the vegetables for a couple of minutes. The vegetables are not diced using a knife but are wrung into smaller pieces manually by hand for better taste. Once all the vegetables are mangled and assembled, salt and chilies are mashed together which is then used to marinate and notch the vegetables. And your gainam salad is ready!
About the author: Monica Kanga T is a Maram from Manipur. She received her PhD degree from the University of Hyderabad and is an independent researcher.