The North Eastern state of Tripura is home to about nineteen different tribes with each tribe and sub-tribe having their own sociocultural identity which has been conserved generation after generation.
The Tripuris prepare a unique rice beverage known as Gora bwtwk which is the undistilled form of the beverage while Langi or Chuwak or Chuwarak is the finished product. Like all the typical rice beverages prepared by the ethnic tribes, this beverage is also prepared from locally available rice and various leaves and barks.
The starter cake known locally as chuwan beleb is prepared by first soaking the rice for a couple of hours and then grinding it with the leaves and barks of drumstick (Moringa oleifera Lam.), rose mahogany (Dysoxylum Blume), cat-tail tree (Markhamia stipulata), jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam.), sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum L.), meda (Litsea monopetala Roxb.), pineapple (Ananas comosus Mill.), cockspur (Casearia aculeata Jacq.), sweet orange (Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck), Allophylus serratus Kurz., Aporusadiocia Roxb. Muell, Rangoon creeper (Combretum indicum (L.)) and night-flowering jasmine or coral jasmine (Nyctanthes Arbor-tristis L.).
Locally grown sticky rice, garlic and red chilli are also added to this mixture and kneaded into a soft dough. Small flat cakes are made which are then sundried for a few days and stored for future use.
Glutinous rice is cooked and spread on a bamboo mat and allowed to cool. The starter cakes are then ground into a fine powder and mixed with the freshly cooked rice. The mixture is kept in a large pot and banana leaves placed over it.
This is allowed to rest for three days after which the mouth of the pot is sealed with cloth. Water is added after three days and the mixture is again sealed for two days. The yellowish watery layer is extracted carefully and consumed as the undistilled rice beverage known as Gora bwtwk.
Gora bwtwk is heated and the vapours are collected in a container placed on top of another. The vapours are then passed through a bamboo pipe and collected in a vessel containing cold water to facilitate the distillation process. The final clear product is known as Langi or Chuwak.
According to the Tripuris, this native rice brew is used to treat nervous disorders, constipation, skin diseases, common cold, jaundice, helminthic infections, gastrointestinal disorder, inflammation, osteoporosis and others. It is also consumed to prevent degenerative diseases, cancer, cardiac disease and others.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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