Imphal: Age-old popular delicacy of the state, Hentak (fermented fish paste) which is a flavour enhancer and used as a condiment needs special promotion and assistance for its survival in the globalised world where different kinds of cuisines are readily available for consumption.
On the sixth day of the on-going Mai-Own 2021 Exhibition at Hapta Kangjeibung, Imphal, the stall displaying the traditional flavour enhancer ‘Hanubi Hentak’ from Ingkhol Loupuk Farm, Andro Awang Leikai. Imphal East, Manipur is captivating the visitors at the exhibition.
Hentak which finds its place in the Manipuri folklore continues to excite the palate of the people. The traditional method of making Hentak begins with catching and sun drying of the small fish, commonly-known as Ngasang and Ngapemma for about 3 months. The sun dried fish are then pounded with the addition of Hongu (alocasia plants), oil among others to make a thick paste known as Hentak.
DIPR interacted with the proprietor of the Hanubi Hentak, Salam Jayanta from Andro Kharam Leikai, Imphal East. Speaking to DIPR, he said that the name Hanubi Hentak was given after the belief that Lord Naran Panganba inaugurated Misi Sumbal – a wooden pounding tool, in which a Chakpa Andro Priestess known as Hanu Langmai Amaibi pounded the hentak. In Andro, from time immemorial, Hentak is used in every dish and not the fermented fish known as ‘Ngari’ or ‘Utong-nga’, which is consumed widely in the state. There is also a belief that only married women should make the Hentak and it is obligatory that every married woman needs to have the knowledge of making the fermented fish paste, Hentak.
Salam Jayenta said that Hanubi Hentak, which was formally launched on March 15, 2021, started its production in the year 2016 and got the opportunity to exhibit the products for the first time in Mai-own 2021. From the first day of the exhibition his sale proceeds per day is Rs. 4000/- approximately. He further said that at present his products has not been sold at any outlets or retailers except at Yelhoumee – a Departmental Store at Wangkhei Keithel Asangbi, Imphal East. Talks are on with retailers for mass selling the products, he added.
Speaking to DIPR about the challenges faced by the production team, Salam Jayenta said that the basic raw material ‘Ngasang, Ngakha, Ngapemma’ are hard to rear as they are mostly found in paddy fields and small ponds. Considering the health hazards, it is a problem to use the fishes caught from paddy fields as most of the farmers use fertilizers and insecticides which are harmful to health. He along with his partners is trying to rear the fishes in a 15 hectare field by making ponds for mass production of Hanubi Hentak. The production unit located at Ingkhol Loupuk Farm, Andro Awang Leikai, has a total of 8 employees but from time to time family members also lend a helping hand.
He further said that he has been able to make this journey of making ‘Hanubi Hentak’ after a thorough research with the local elders who are expert in making the traditional Hentak. He further added that while processing Hentak, he has not used any fermenting agents except a small amount of water even though people use different ingredients such as Hongu (alocasia plants), onions as fermenting agents. Regarding financial assistance, he said that he started his work by contributing small amounts with his partners. Till date he has not get any financial assistance under any government schemes or banks. He has also not applied for any kind of assistance but has visited the Fishery Department for fish rearing techniques and know-how of the nutritional values of the fishes used in producing Hentak. He said that he ventured into Hentak making for the promotion of the traditional cuisine which has been passed down from one generation to the next.
Salam Jayenta wanted the state government or concerned authorities to provide some assistance that will help in preserving and promoting the traditional cuisine which is unique to the state. He also said that it will be helpful if the experts from the concerned department share knowledge on the rearing technique of the rare species of fishes particularly used in producing Hentak which has been replaced by Ngari or Utong-nga for the sake of future generation.