Ark of taste
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The art of fermentation is widely practiced in the areas of Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram of northeastern India, and the practice of fermenting soybeans is closely linked to the indigenous peoples of these areas. The umami flavor is appreciated among these communities, though those unfamiliar with the product may find it difficult to describe its taste.

Axone (also said akhone, dzacie akhuni, hawaijar, tungrymbai, peruyyan, bekantha, kinema) is somewhat similar to products like natto in Japan, chungkok-jang in Korea and thua-nao in Thailand.  It is believed that this product came to India from the India-Mynamar boarder, and production remains largely confined especially to these border states.

Axone is prepared by boiling soybeans until soft and draining the water. The cooked beans are then wrapped in plant leaves (either from banana trees, Phrynium pubinerve Blume or Macaranga indica Wight) and stored covered in a bamboo basket above a fireplace or outside in the sun to ferment for a three to seven days (or longer in the winter). As with many fermented product, it is judged to be ready when it smells “right.’ Within a week, the fermented beans are used in chutney preparation along with chili, tomato and salt. However, for long-term storage, and depending on taste, the fermented beans can also be pounded and shaped into a cake form or individual beans may be separated, dried in the sun and stored in containers.

The dried beans or cakes are cooked along with meat (such as pork or snails), the preparation of chutney, in curries and in many other recipes.   Although the production process is relatively similar from area to area, the taste may change depending on seasonality, the variety of soybean used, the type of leaves used for packaging and even the water used in boiling. The finished product is light to dark brown in color.

It is not officially sold commercially, but can be found for informal sale in small shops or directly from the producers. A notable and steady decline has been observed in the quantity of axone sold at market. More often it is prepared for home use. 

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Other info


Vegetables and vegetable preserves

Indigenous community:Naga, Sema, Ao, Mao