Although anishi look like pieces of coal and are just as hard, they are a Naga delicacy.
It is believed that the word ‘anishi’ comes from ‘nuoshi’, which is actually the real Ao word for anishi (‘nuo’ refers to yam leaves and ‘shi’ means fermented). Anishi, which means ‘fermented or processed taro leaf’, are cakes made with dried taro leaves. Taro grows in abundance in Nagaland and is culturally significant. Locals depend on taro for their diet to a large extent. Anishi are formed into patties, smoked and then dried. Although they look like pieces of coal and are just as hard, they are a Naga delicacy.
To make anishi, fresh, mature green leaves and stems of the taro plant are collected. These are washed, stacked and wrapped in banana leaves. It takes around a week for the leaves to turn yellow, after which they are ground into a thick paste with a large mortar and pestle. Salt, chillies or ginger may be added during this process. The paste is then divided into small pieces, forming small patties, which are left to dry in the sun or next to a fire. Once dried, they are ready to use.
Mainly prepared by the Ao tribe of Nagaland, anishi use no preservatives. They are among the most culturally important foods for the Ao tribe, and are usually paired with smoke-dried pork. The smoke-dried pork is chopped and then boiled with anishi to prepare a thin soup that also includes yam or potatoes, tomatoes and chilli. Smoke-dried eel may also be used in place of smoke-dried pork.
“Anishi is odourless and flavourful. Only some ingredients get stronger in flavour when they are fermented. You need to acquire a taste for it to know how flavourful it can be,” ChubaManen Longkumer, MD of Delhi’s Nagaland’s Kitchen, has told Hindustan Times.
Anishi may also be powdered and stored in air-tight containers as they have a long shelf life. Today, anishi are produced in relatively small quantities as compared to the past. They are mainly prepared in households, but can sometimes also be found at local markets. Some villages in Mokokchung have started producing anishi commercially due to its growing popularity and rising demand. However, it still remains a challenge to meet the market demand by producing anishi using traditional methods.
Milder than akhuni, anishi is the more popular delicacy of the two. It adds a slight sourness and smokiness to dishes. Despite their coal-like appearance, anishi have gone on to become an integral part of Naga cuisine.