Updated: Apr 1, 2021
From ancient times, people who live near water bodies have been discovering various water-plants that are edible and nutritious. In Tripura there is a water-plant called "chichiri" which is widely eaten by the local populace. It is chewy, tasty, and versatile enough to be cooked in various ways. The plant grows on stagnant waters such as rice fields, ponds and lakes and is easily collected.
In our village near Sepahijala, there are many rice fields that are lying vacant. The chichiri is growing in places where the water has collected to form small pools. Today my mother Biswa Laxmi, my aunt Budhu Laxmi, and I have decided to go and collect some to cook for lunch. This is the first time this year that we have stepped out to collect the vegetable. Here are the steps and tips that we follow to collect the finest plants:
Firstly, only collect plants that are young and tender. They will cook beautifully and taste really good.
Chichiri floats on the surface of the water like a water lily. The roots are short and only a few centimetres long. It is very easy to gather them and bring them home.
Wash them thoroughly. Since in the fields the water is shallow, the chichiri might collect mud.
Remove the root and cut it into smaller pieces before cooking.
Chichiri can be cooked as chakhwi, awandroo, or plain berma bwtwi.
My aunt gave us a mini-course on chichiri. She said that there are primarily three kinds of chichiri plants available in Tripura. The first is called “chichiri wanjwi”, the second is called “chichiri borok”, and the third one is called “chichiri poktho”. She said, “The first variety has small leaves and the second variety has big leaves. We usually eat the “chichiri wanjwi” because it is more tender. The third variety “chichiri poktho” grows wildly in the ponds and is usually not eaten.” According to my aunt, during hot summer months, the fish living in the ponds taken shelter under the leaves of the third variety. Chichiri grows around the year in stagnant water. Many indigenous people collect them and sell them in the market where they are sold off like hot cakes. She also taught me a simple recipe to cook at home which goes thus:
Pour a cup of water in a cooking utensil. Now add Chichiri, salt, slit green chilies, onion, berma (fermented fish), and turmeric.
Place the utensil on the stove and close the lid. After the water starts to boil, open the lid and stir the dish. Cook it for another five minutes and stir. Close the lid and let it cook for another five minutes. The dish is ready in a total of 15 mins.
Serve with steamed rice.
This season, chichiri has grown in abundance and it is available in markets around the state. If you are visiting then do try some.
This article represents the intellectual knowledge of the Borok community of Tripura. It has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.