The next in our series of rice brews of the ethnic groups of India is Atingba made by the Meiteis living in Imphal Valley of Manipur. This alcoholic beverage is prepared from the locally available glutinous rice. Like other native rice beverages, Atingba is prepared from starter cakes called hamei and medicinal herbs. This traditional drink has been prepared in the same manner for centuries and the secret recipe has been passed down generations.
The locally available sticky raw rice is ground with the barks of Albizia myriophylla. Sometimes, Vangueria spinosa, hanurei and Kharam leishok are used along with pineapple and passion fruit to prepare the starter cakes.
The fine powder is mixed with a little quantity of water and kneaded till soft. The previous year’s starter cakes are powdered and added to this dough. Small flat cakes are made and placed on dry rice husks. They are covered with banana leaves and kept on the floor or bamboo baskets for 2 to 3 days at room temperature.
The cakes ferment and turn yellowish in colour and produce an alcoholic flavour. These cakes can be dried in the sun and stored for a year. Locally grown glutinous rice is cleaned and cooked with excess water to soften the rice. It is then spread on a bamboo mat and left to cool.
When the temperature is around 40°C, the starter cakes are crushed and mixed into the cool rice by hand. This mixture is then left for fermentation in large clay pots and sealed with leaves of Alocasia sp. This mixture is left for 3 to 4 days to ferment in summer and a week in winter. This is then followed by submerged fermentation for 2 to 3 days in earthen pots.
The fermented beverage is then distilled and the yellowish product is called Atingba. This drink is supposed to regulate menstrual flow in women, is recommended as a treatment for obesity and loss of appetite.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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