Venturing to fulfill a commitment made to a friend to pen a short blog post on Manipuri cuisine for her food blog, i stumbled upon several anecdotes walking down the memory lane as i thought about the fascination of this one vegetable – the yongchak. My fascination was not so much about the vegetable but the bye-lanes of that memory lane which was perhaps rhetorical for the dispassionate consumer that I personally was. I have never quite understood the great fascination for this one particular vegetable. Nonetheless, I certainly intend to go on and on about it stringing together some of the stories triggered by the walk down the memory lane.
For an introduction to the piece, do read the initial post which started the string at the blog of a food anthropologist at work http://itiriti.wordpress.com/author/itiriti/ For a direct link to the related post click here http://itiriti.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/yongchak-the-bio-bomb-of-manipuri-cuisine/
Yongchak Tale 1:
Different regions have different practices. My mother was once given a packet of a powdery white substance as a gift. She was told it was a derivative of yongchak but she had not known what it was or how it was consumed. It went waste because no one around had ever heard about it. It was not until several long years later that she came to know what it was. On a visit to the village of Khurkhul, famed for its silk fabric, she found out that over there the yongchak was generally de-seeded to be preserved. Unlike what we in Imphal had been doing, they not only stored the seeds but also the white substance inside the bean pod. This was added in preparing other dishes to add to its taste. Unlike the bombs, this powdery white substance had a subtle flavour which compliments other dishes well. Needless to say, she came home to try it out.
With the ever mobility of its consumers, the yongchak has also become mobile. Correspondingly, new methods of preserving it have also been adopted. Besides, the dried ‘overcoat’ seeds, the scraped bean whole is also dried. As the Manipuri diet consumes not only the seeds but the body of the beans as well, the preservation techniques are also experiments to preserve the whole beans – preferably cut in different sizes keeping in mind the different dishes that can be prepared.