Atingba is a traditional rice beverage popular in Manipur. This rice brew is locally made, and it has vodka- like nature with a strong punch. Mainly the women in the villages of Manipur are efficient in making Atingba which needs a lot of time and patience. Andro village is one of the popular villages famous for making Atingba.
The Meiteis of Manipur living in Imphal valley is also the community who make Atingba traditionally. The process of fermentation is used to make many other drinks as well which is the oldest method of preservation and has nutritional and economical value. A large amount of the population in Manipur depends on fermented food for nutritional value and economic reasons.
The method of making this kind of fermented drink is passed on from generation to generation in India and is timeless.
How Atingba is prepared?
Atingba is a rice brew made with local rice. The rice used for this brew is sticky, glutinous raw rice.There is a process to make hamei which is a starter cake mixed with medicinal herbs to get the final product. There are multiple herbs or ingredients which are mixed with the rice to make a starter cake. Some of them are Kharam Leishok, barks of Albizia Myriophylla Vangueria Spinosa, and Hanurei. Albizia Myriophylla is
a potent source of antimicrobial and antioxidant agents which enhances shelf life. Other ingredients or seasonal fruits are also used such as passion fruit and pineapple. The use of seasonal fruits in Atingba increases its shelf life. Now the powder thus obtained is mixed with water and the dough is kneaded until soft. This dough is also mixed with older rice cake powder and cakes are prepared.
These small cakes are sundried which increases their longevity and can be stored for one year. Next is boiling the local glutinous rice and cooling it on the bamboo mat. Since this rice is glutinous, extra water is used to soften it. The starter cake powder is mixed with cooled rice at a temperature of 40℃. This mixing is done by hand and then it is left to ferment in large clay vessels covered with Alocasia sp leaves.
It needs 3-4 days to ferment during summer and about one week in winter. The process of submerged fermentation is done after this for 2 to 3 days in clay pots again. The climate of this region is tropical and sub-tropical which also affects the fermentation process. The next step is distillation which is a slow and lengthy procedure. The distilled clear liquor is called Yu.
The yellowish product obtained after distillation and fermentation is called the Atingba beverage. The taste, aroma, and shelf-life increase due to fermentation and add nutritional value.
Cultural importance & value
The tribal or rural areas region of Manipur are covered with forests and are rich in natural resources. Two- thirds of the population of North-eastern states are into agriculture or related activities for their living. Traditionally Atingba accompanies almost all kinds of occasions in Manipur. Whether it’s birth rituals or any other, it is an integral part of the community culture.
It also supports a large amount of population commercially and economically. This drink is also medically beneficial and is used to treat loss of appetite, obesity, urinary bladder, and menstrual issues in women. Fermented drinks are nutritious for their protein and vitamin content along with essential fatty and amino acids as well.
This is an age-old traditional art that needs attention in various sections like hygiene, food processing, and preservation. The use of plastic containers is toxic or allergic to humans. Many manufacturers tried to speed up the process of fermentation with urea which also damages the quality of the drink and is harmful to consume. Fermented food production technology is required to reduce risk and maintain the quality of the products consistently.
This needs the intervention of Governing bodies to maximize production with proper technological assistance and quality control measures. The amalgamation of modern science and traditional knowledge will help add value, standardize the product, and help in quality packaging with proper storage facilities. Again, strategized marketing is required for maximized productivity and commercial gains.