There is a reason why I kept Nagaland for the last day. The reason has a name: Axone.
Axone or Akhuni are fermented Soyabeans which give an distinct flavour to the dish, similar to Miso. It is the Umami taste, the 5th taste, of Axone, which gives the special flavour to almost all Nagaland dishes. Umami is a taste you can often find in protein rich food and is described as “tasty”.
Nevertheless, this Axone gave me quite some headache. It was not available at all and the only way to get it, was to make it myself. There are some you tube videos showing the process of making Nagastyle Axone in 4 days. Apparently, you either need a dry sunny place or a smoky fire. Despite not having either of it (rainy season), I still tried to ferment the cooked and slightly mashed Soyabeans wrapped in a towel in an oven.
There was definitely a distinct cheese smell and some moult after 2 days. Well, apparently there should be some moult coming up during the process. But not knowing whether it was the right one and not wanting to kill my boy friend with the smell, I had to throw the stinking Soyabean in the dustbin.
So why do I talk so much about this axone. Well, it is an important ingredient for the Nagaland dish Galho- a Rice Stew prepared with leavy vegetables, rice, smoked beef and Axone.
Now I didn´t had 2 major ingredients! Honestly, I felt like cooking this Galho without Axone and smoked meat, is like making Pizza without Cheese or Thai Curry without Currypaste.
Nevertheless, I cooked the rice anyway, with Vegetables and fresh Soyabeans and a tiny bit of Soya Sauce. It tasted like a healthy rice porridge and is probably nowhere close to the Nagaland original, which is highly recommended. Can´t wait to get axone in my hands soon.
The second dish comes the flavour of Nagaland much closer and luckily, I had all ingredients. Unluckily it almost killed me.
Just imagine: The last dish of my whole project and such an end result.
The dish consisted of fried Taro Roots, fried Cabbage with beans and Sesame seeds and a dressing made out of Ginger Juice, lemon and honey.
Taro roots, in India known as “Arbi”, are very common in Nagaland.
Did you know raw Taro roots are poisoning when eating raw because of Calcium oxalate?
I didn´t, also the itching on my fingers while peeling the tiny root should have given me the hint.
To check whether the fried Taro roots where ready, I tried one. Apparently, it was still raw, since suddenly my whole mouth and throat started itching and burning, as if I had eaten nettles.
I got really scared of having an allergic shock and quickly swallowed an antihistamine tablet and called for my boyfriend. He calmed me down. Knowing about the toxicity, he said it will go away after a while. Well, it did. And instead of only frying the roots I poured water above them and gave them a thorough boil, so that the toxic calcium oxalate would be reduced.
Having been in doubt about the outcome of both dishes, I luckily also prepared some Pizzas to insure a satisfying dinner. That night I have never touched the Taro roots again and saved the Nagaland meal for the next day.
Also, on the next day I was still very scared. There where some cases, where the whole throat got swollen so much, that the persons died!
So I only chew carefully on a little, before trying the whole dish. The root seemed to be fine and well cooked.
Finally, the “fried” (ok boiled) Taro root with the roasted cabbage on top and the very delicious dressing came out very nice and interesting. The whole dish known under the name Naga Hinkejvu had a distinct Chinese influence, which I liked.
So, knowing now a bit more about the Naga Kitchen, I still don´t know much about Nagaland and it`s people. Anyone can help me out here?
Recipe for Gahlo
Recipe for Naga Hinkejvu