Hundreds of years ago, before the invention of refrigeration, people preserved their food by drying them in the sun, fermenting them, or by turning them into pickles. Despite many varieties of fresh items now being available around the year, preserved food has become an essential part of our cuisine and culture.
In Tripura, one such food is “berma” or fermented fish, without which we cannot even dream of running a kitchen. Berma is made by burying the fish underground for one whole month. Once it is ready, it is added to almost all recipes as it adds a distinct flavour to them. It is also roasted with chillies and turned into a paste to be eaten with boiled rice. The smell of berma is very strong and roasting it spreads the aroma all around the house like an invitation.
The making of berma is an art that only few can master but today I am going to share the process.
About 500 gm of a local variety of small fish called puthi
A small earthen pot
Clean the fish, remove its entrails and wash it thoroughly
Mix with salt so that all impurities are removed
Now spread it on a big plate and dry it in the sun for two hours
After removing it from the sun, soak the fish in water for 10 mins
Now take out the fish from the water and let it air dry for 10 mins
After that, mix two teaspoons of fish fat. It is found in any fish shop in Agartala.
Place the fish gently inside a small clay pot and seal the mouth with some leaves
Dig a hole in the backyard and bury it inside for one month
After a month, the fish is fermented and can be used for cooking
Uses: Berma is used to cook gudok, bwtwi, awandru, chakhwi and mosodeng.
Other than berma, Tripuris consume a huge amount of dried fish too. The process involves similar processes of washing and mixing with salt as that of berma. The only difference is that fish is dried in the sun for many days and then stored in a tight container.
If you love fish then you can make berma and dry fish at home easily!
This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.