Tripura forest food fest tickles taste buds

By Jayanta Bhattacharya

Agartala, June 11: To popularize mouthwatering indigenous Tripuri cuisine among city dwellers, a forest food festival organised here attracted a lot of people, especially youths.

Among those who set up stalls was 34-year old Meri Debbarma, who was assisted by three women. She was busy selling Tripuri cuisine at the festival organised by the state’s Forest Department on Saturday.

She earned Rs 2,500 at the end of the one-day food festival at the Heritage Park. Debbarma had carried the cooked food items in hot pots from her house.

The indigenous foods on offer for buyers included delicacies such as ‘Bangoi, sticky rice boiled with special leaves found in forests, and ‘Godok’, a dish of assorted boiled veggies including bamboo shoots mixed with fermented fish, a dash of hot chillies and onions.

‘Wahan mosdeng’ (pork bharta) - boiled pork pieces mixed with chopped onion, hot green chili and coriander leaves also sold like hot cakes at the counter, she claimed.

Debbarma hails from Hezamara block on the foothills of Baramura range in West Tripura district and is a member of a 10-member Self Help Group (SHG), ‘Bubar’ (flower bud).

At Hezamara, 20 km from here, she runs a small catering service unit.

Debbarma or her group ‘Bubar’ was not the lone participant whose food stall was crowded. At least ten other SHGs participated in the festival, which was inaugurated by Tribal Welfare Minister Bikash Debbarma.

Hundreds of people from the city had gathered at the venue to savour Tripuri delicacies like ‘Muya A wandru’ which contains bamboo shoots, rice flour and fermented fish, ‘Muya bai Wahon’ made with jackfruit, papaya, pork and bamboo shoots.

The Tribal Welfare Minister said, “Modern life has taken people away from their roots. We hope that government-supported traditional food festivals will help preserve traditional cuisines”.

The wide array of forest foods available at the event also included ‘Chakhoi’ - vegetables boiled with pulses, ‘Chutoi mosdeng’ -turmeric and dry fish bharta, ‘Tohan mosdeng’ -chicken bharta, ‘Asokja’ -roasted fish, ‘Chalta salad’ -elephant apple salad.

Sunit Sarkar, who visited the festival said, ‘Bangoi’, pork bharta, and ‘Gudak’ are very popular among people in the northeastern state.

“The indigenous people come to Lake Chowmuhani market here every day to sell vegetables grown only in forests. Forest food is now popular among common people,” Sarkar said.

K.S Sethi, Principal Secretary of Forest Department said, the tribals living in the forests protect biodiversity and prepare food which is hygienic as they do not use spices and oils.

“We want to popularise forest food among the people living in the cities and the towns, so we have organised the forest food festival. It will also benefit people living in the forest areas by improving their livelihood”, he told PTI.

Dr. Avinash Kanfade, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, said forest food items are organic and rich in nutrients.

“If people develop a habit of consuming forest food instead of burgers or junk food they will benefit,” he said.