Zutho is a traditional rice beverage prepared by the Angami tribe that is largely based in Kohima and Dimapur districts in Nagaland. This indigenous rice brew that forms an important part of the culture and heritage of the ethnic tribes of Nagaland like the Ao, Lotha, Angami, Khiamniungan and Sümi Naga is called by different names with slight variations in its preparation.
Zutho is prepared using sticky rice and a starter cake called piazu which is interestingly sprouted rice. The unhulled rice is first soaked in water for 3 to 4 days after which some of the water is drained out. The grains are left to germinate which takes about a week or more depending on the prevailing weather conditions.
The sprouted rice grains are pounded into a fine powder using a mortar and pestle. This powder is known as piazu. Locally available sticky rice (red or white) or millets (if rice is in short supply or during the lean period) is nicely washed and cooked. It is then spread out on a bamboo mat and left to cool.
The piazu is added to the cool rice and mixed well. The mixture is then kept in a large container (earthen or wooden vessel) and allowed to ferment. Fermentation usually takes about 4 days in summer and maybe a week in winter. A larger quantity of piazu might be added in winter to ease the process of fermentation.
After the mixture has fermented, some amount of water is added to the home brew which is then filtered using a bamboo mesh and served in bamboo cups. This whitish porridge-like drink is sweet and sour to taste with a mild fruity odour. The Angamis sometimes carry zutho while working in the fields as it is highly nutritional. They drink this along with ginger, chillies or chutney.
This staple drink of the Angamis is generally prepared by women and served to the young and old. It features in all the important festivals of the Nagas. Zutho is believed to have medicinal properties and helps to regulate blood pressure, high fever and improve one’s digestion and increase their stamina.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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