Tripura’s Cone-Shaped Bhangui Rice Is A Part Of Tribal History
- Shireen Jamooji
Updated : August 20, 2022 02:08 IST
Rolled in banana leaves and steamed in fragrant mists, this is a much-loved Tripura staple.
The northeast of India is often forgotten in day-to-day conversations, but no place more so than Tripura. Only recognised as an independent state in 1972, it is still in the process of reclaiming its rich history and customs. One major part of that is shining a spotlight on their native cuisine which derives from the tribal cooking style of the Tiprasas. This style of food is known locally as Mui Borok and relies heavily on pork dishes, locally sourced vegetables and a fermented fish paste called Berma. But there’s also a great love for sweet dishes and cakes and often, they put certain skills and methods of cooking to use on both ends of the flavour spectrum.
This is where the beloved dish of Bhangui (or Bangwi) comes in. The name itself doesn’t refer to the dish so much as the banana leaf in which the dish is wrapped. The main component of Bhangui is rice that is flavoured with ginger and onion and then boiled in the banana leaf. The banana leaves are far more than just practical cooking containers though. They impart a unique aroma which contributes to the distinctive experience of eating this dish. For it to be truly authentic, the preferred grain is Guria rice which needs to be dried in the sun before cooking. The grain is sweet and sticky which makes it easy to form into a conical shape and easy to eat. Bhangui is featured in many of the folktales of the region, making it one of the oldest dishes known in this area.
Bhangui can be served in many ways but the most popular is alongside a fish stew or boiled pork dishes like Wahan Mosodeng. It can also be transposed into a sweet dish called Awan Bhaghui. It’s exclusive to Tripura and is typically served as part of celebrations. Instead of the traditional ginger and onion flavourings, the rice cone is instead boiled with cashews sauteed in ghee and plump soaked raisins.
Though it takes some specialised ingredients and a skill born of experience to make the perfect Bangui, it’s an easy dish to try making at home. If needed substitute the traditional Guria rice with a high amount of Amylopectin – a starchy molecule which makes rice sticky – such as Japanese sushi rice.
- 500 gms sun-dried guria rice (or similar sticky rice)
- 1 inch-long piece of ginger
- 1 large onion
- 125 gms oil
- 3 Bhangui / banana leaves
- Salt as per taste
- Soak the rice for about an hour. Completely drain the water and spread it out on a plate for a few minutes.
- Mix the rice, onions, ginger, ghee and salt well in a vessel.
- Make cones of the banana leaf and fill the cones with the rice mixture until it is filled 3/4th.
- Close the top of the cone and bind it with the twine. The cone should be watertight and no rice should come out or water should go in.
- In a broad vessel, fill water and immerse the cones in it. Let it boil for about half an hour.
- After half an hour, remove it from the water, let it cool a little and gently unwrap the rice cones. Ensure you don’t disturb or break the cones while unwrapping.