Written by Rabindra Debbarma and translated from Kokborok by Snehamoy Roy Chowdhury.
Food is an important and indispensable part of any culture and community. There is an old saying in Tripura, which goes, “Bengali people can’t live without dal, Halams without chakhwi and Tripuris without berema bwtwi.” Berema bwtwi is a soup made out of dry fish called ‘Sidol’ and is a staple of Tripura’s Adivasis.
Our people are accustomed to eating berema bwtwi at home; the dish was especially a favourite at wedding ceremonies. Nowadays, however, nobody is eating this dish, or cooking it, not even during weddings. Time has changed our food traditions. There was a time when a wedding feast could never be complete without this soup.
After taking the bride and groom home, everybody used to be treated with berema bwtwi. Then the newly-married bride had to treat the elders of the village with the same berema bwtwi. This practice is rarely seen today. Unfortunately, our traditional food is disappearing by the day.
Some of the essential ingredients to prepare this soup are brinjal, potato, green chilli, onion, dry fish, salt and coriander leaves (local or jhum variety). After boiling water, vegetables are added to it, followed by sidol (the fish). When the vegetables are cooked, coriander leaves (local dhania or jhum variety called baanta) are added before taking the vessel off the stove.
It is essential that we teach our future generations about these traditional food items and food habits. If we don’t, very soon these traditional practices, ideas and habits will go extinct. While we continue to follow and adapt to other people’s food habits and etiquette, let us not forget our own traditional practices and habits.
Only cooking and eating at home will not serve this purpose, there is also a need to promote it outside of the areas where it is commonly eaten; we need to introduce our cuisine to the country and the world! It contains stories of our ancestors and the history of our land and we cannot let this precious knowledge disappear forever.
About the author: Rabindra Debbarma lives in Tripura. He is a beekeeper and is working towards growing his bee farm. He loves to travel and learn about what’s new in the world.