By Rajib Debbarma
Have you ever eaten food cooked in bamboo? For the Tripuri community in Tripura, this is a normal affair. The Tripuri tribe has its own way of preparing different types of food using bamboo and one of the dishes cooked this way is called Wasung Gudok, which is a Tripuri favorite!
Ingredients to cook Wasung Godok| Photo- Rajib Debbarma
Being the world’s longest grass, with tensile strength as good as steel, bamboo is one of the most versatile resources one can find in the forest. Bamboo, known as nature’s wonder plant, is the pressure cooker of the forest and can be used to boil, steam, and roast food. It has been used to cook food by many indigenous communities across India and the world, right from the Adivasis in Araku Valley to the Aetas in the Philippines to ethnic minorities in China.
This traditional way of preparing food was practiced by our forefathers and foremothers during ancient times and it has continued to flourish even in our modern days. However, the things that were available during the earlier days have now become very rare, so it is very difficult to now prepare food with the exact ancient method.
The state of Tripura is home to 19 tribal communities, but, among these communities, most of them do not know about this way of preparing food. This method was practiced mostly by the communities living near forests and practicing Jhum cultivation. My grandparents have told me innumerable stories about how food prepared this way tastes delicious, so one day I decided to try it out for myself. My grandparents were not kidding.
Using just salt, water, turmeric leaves, a handful of small fish, fermented fish, small chili and a bamboo tube, Wasung Gudok is prepared in my community. Along with the Tripuris, even the Reang and Mog communities of Tripura consume this dish often.
The food being filled into the bamboo, ready to be cooked. | Photo- Rajib Debbarma
The bamboo is used as a container and the food is either wrapped in leaves or just simply inserted into the bamboo, layer by layer, until the bamboo is full. The bamboo is then closed with either turmeric or banana leaves. The bamboo is then cooked for around 25 minutes, being rotated over the flame regularly.
The food being cooked in bamboo. | Photo- Rajib Debbarma
Once cooked, the food is unloaded into a container or utensil and onions are added and the mixture is then crushed and blended with a bamboo stem and seasoned.
Indigenous communities across the world, just like ours, use bamboo for a variety of reasons- to cook, eat, build materials and traps and containers and houses and furniture. I hope to make an effort to keep these practices alive and to inform people about them more.
Watch the video of Wasung Godok being made on Adivasi Lives Matter’s Facebook page.
About the author: Rajib Debbarma lives in Tripura. He’s in the 4th semester of his BA studies and is a photography enthusiast. He likes making videos about the food in his tribal community. He wants to start his own business someday.
This article was first published in Youth Ki Awaaz