Ethnic/ Tribal Food Series: Tiwa Tribe, Assam | Food + Cultural Tour in West Karbi Anglong

After getting familiar with the traditional cuisine of the Rabha Tribe of Bongaingaon In the pursuit of our food explorations in Assam, we arrived at West Karbi Anglong Island. Where we will learn about the lifestyle, food and culture of the Tiwa tribe Here our destination is the village named Bormarjong(Umswai). Where apart from the calm, tranquil and green surroundings the cleanliness gives peace to the eyes. Here we met our host Debojit. Who is a resident of this village and who belongs to the Tiwa community. Debojit is a student of tourism And today he is taking us on this journey through his village. Namaste!
-Namaste. Who all are there in your house? At my house, I have my maternal aunt, aunt, father, mother and my brother. Amidst drizzling Sipping a cup of tea we reached that section of the house Where Ju(Chu), the traditional rice beer consumed by the Tiwa tribe, was being prepared. Ju(chu)is their traditional drink which is made with fermented rice. The thing that is being cooked here is the rice beer. The first step is that rice mixed with water and bakhor are left for three days. It works as a catalyst. And then the whole thing is cooked in this. The vapour released from the cooking gets collected over here The vapour gets distilled. And this end product is called the rice beer. What is its’ local name? Ju(Chu). That is the name used by the Tiwas. So does everybody here makes the rice beer at their home?
-Yes. So in every house they have such thing.
-Yes they make it for household use. That’s nice. you make it at home and… Preparing the beer involves an elaborate technique Since the time we came, I can see aunty involved in making this drink. And she is just busy making this. like at what time it is to be taken out etc. Okay the rice is getting boiled in this vessel While interacting our eyes fell on their traditional natural fibre basket called Kho Par. that is worn over the head using a belt and things are carried in it. Where should I go carrying it? something can be put into this. And you can carry it. You can put anything like leaves. So you carry it like this and walk. I am going to aunt. It’s Aita right? Here too do we call her Aita?
-Yes Aita is grandmother. So I am going to Aita. On being ready, the rice beer was served to us. Drinking it out of the bamboo glasses was fun. I like the way they pour it. They store it in this. Do you like it? It is not much sweet but sour. It is generally sweet. Ya it is usually sweet but this one is sour. It seems that the taste is slightly similar to vinegar. It is usually very sweet. Today it is not that sweet.
-It has both sweet and sour taste. What is this called?
-Chuan. Chu Chuan This beer glass is called Chu Chuan. Thank you Debojit. It was so much fun. You invited us to your house and showed us around. You showed us how the beer is made You also offered us beer and introduced us to your culture. Thank you. Is this the traditional way of welcoming the guests?
-yes. Is it known as the Gamcha?
-Yes. It was now time for breakfast. For breakfast we had steamed Mai Shawal, a special kind of glutinous rice that grows locally. The plain rice itself has so much taste.
-Hmm. There is nothing else in it. It is just steamed rice. with sugar. It is very tasty. Sometimes milk is also added to it together with sugar. Milk and rice. After this simple breakfast, Debojit took us to show the Shamadhi. Different from the Samadhi that we are familiar with, this Shamadhi is essentially a wooden house. where only men can enter. Due to some traditional belief, the entry of women inside this is prohibited. Debojit told us that this place is used by the menfolk for some social gatherings, special occasions or just for spending time together. Built with bamboo, wood and straw, this house stood far away from the rest of the houses in the village. This is the Dhol for playing the music. What is it called?
-Kram/Krum. This is the… the one we had shown you.
-Julao and Ju/Chu Sunga. Their designs are made here. From the Shamadhi, we went on to Mohon Phador Khidri’s memorial. Who was a great warrior of the Tiwa community. This is the king and these are the ministers. He had made it like that. Like you have the king’s court So this is the king sitting and these are all the ministers. These are their seats. They have preserved this as a heritage. You know as a community heritage. So whenever someone visits like us, they show the place to them. So this is the king and these are his ministers. After the tour of the village It was time for the lunch. We were about to taste those dishes that is usually prepared in the houses. We are making the chicken.
-Yes the chicken. It is cold that’s why he is sitting here. He is taking the heat. So only turmeric, salt, chillies and coriander. That’s it. In the simple kitchen settings A humble meal of country chicken was prepared for us along with steamed rice and dal. What is it called? It is known as Khangshi. So we have red rice, dal and country chicken Mesam. we will try the mesam first. Hmm! Debojit the food is very tasty. There is nothing much in the chicken. It is just turmeric and salt. and chillies. With only this much ingredients we have such a tasty chicken. You have rice for breakfast in the afternoon you have rice and at night as well. You have it thrice a day. Rice is the Staple food of the whole of Assam. And the country chicken made with such less spices is so tasty. The meal is very simple yet very tasty. After this gratifying meal, it was time to bid goodbye to all and depart. And take this journey of taste ahead. Thank you Debojit. We enjoyed visiting your village. That you told us so many things about your community, was a learning experience for us. Thank you.

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

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