Translated from Kokborok by Hamari Jamatia
If you visit the markets of North-East India, you will witness fresh bunches of long flat beans being bought and sold. The scientific name of the beans is Parkia speciosa, but they are known by different names in different places. The Manipuri call it yongchak, whereas the Mizos call it Zawngṭa. In Tripura, it is called Wakre/Waikre/Wakrey depending on the regional dialect. It is a much sought-after item in indigenous cuisine with people cooking the beans in the form of curry and chilli chutney. The beans have a very distinct taste and can be added to meat curries too.
In Tripura, the most popular wakrey dish is called mosodeng. The wakrey stalks are roasted in fire, and the beans are later extracted. In cities, where wood fires are not available, the beans are removed from the pods and boiled in water. They are then mixed with roasted green chillies and served as a side dish.
Apart from its use as food, the wakrey tree is planted as an ornamental tree. It grows up to 30 feet tall and gives good shade. Aware of its benefits and demand, Budul Debbarma of Tripura is on a mission to make sure that its supply never stops.
Budu Debbarma from Khumulwng (Autonomous District Council) area has opened a nursery in which he germinates saplings of the plant and sells it to customers. Budul was born with a green thumb and spent much of his childhood planting trees. Today he has transformed his hobby into a vocation. He says, “I used to plant saplings in my house’s backyard and garden. Now those saplings have grown into big trees.” He attends a local college during the day.
First, the seed is extracted from ripened beanstalks. The beans are green when unripe but turn black as they mature. Next, the soil is prepared. For this, Budul mixes organic manure with freshly dug-out soil. This soil is then transferred to small plastic cups that serve as flower pots, and the seeds are buried in each pot one by one.
Budul then waters the pots every day till they start sprouting leaves. Slowly as they grow to a few inches, they are ready to be sold and replanted. The best time for planting wakrey is between March and April. Wakrey tree can be planted as an ornamental tree as well as for shade on the roadside. They grow on all kinds of soil and are easy to maintain.
The tribals in Tripura eat mostly fresh and local produce, and wakrey is an important part of indigenous cuisine in Tripura. Locals love the curry and chutney that is made with these beans. If you’d like to get a taste of authentic Tripuri cuisine which is also a part of the locals’ diet, then you must try them.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.