Bastenga and Kesei (Fermented Bamboo Shoots and Juice)

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Bastenga, Kesei

Fermented bamboo shoots and juice are frequently used in the Naga cuisine of northeastern India. The bamboo can be from many species, including Bambusa vulgaris and Phyllostachys edulis. The fermentation process is carried out in May and June, when the new shoots form. The young bamboo shoots are collected, the sheaths removed, and are pounded or sliced into small pieces and put into a conical bamboo basket with lined with banana leaves. This basket also has a hole at the bottom made from a length of bamboo stick slightly longer then the basket, which helps to drain away the juices. The basket is hung and the shoots are covered with banana leaves and stones as a weight. The bamboo stick is twisted from time to time to help with the drainage. This juice is collected in a container under the basket.

Both the shoots and juice ferment over the course of at least two weeks, and can then be used for cooking.   The fermented bamboo products are then stored in various ways for later use. In the past the shoots would be stored in the hollow center of bamboo or in wooden containers. The juice would be stored in a dried gourd (Lagenaria siceraria Standl., Molina) shell, but these days manufactured bottles are also used. The fermented shoots are sorted by size for different culinary uses, and can be kept for up to a year. They can also be dried in the sun for long-term storage as well. These various forms of fermented bamboo are used in many ways, often in cooking meat and vegetable dishes. The juice has preservative property similar to vinegar and so meat, fish or vegetables cooked with it have longer shelf life. Dried fermented bamboo shoots are used for preparing different curries and pickles. A decoction of the shoots taken with teaspoonful of honey once or twice a day is has been used to treat respiratory disease by the people of Nagaland since at least the early 1900s.  

Today, only small quantities of fermented bamboo shoots and juice are being prepared in this traditional way, and so these products are only found for sale in limited amounts. More commonly, it is made only for personal or family consumption. Over the years, a steady decline in people making this product means that an age-old taste and tradition of the Naga people is at risk of being lost. 

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Vegetables and vegetable preserves

Indigenous community:Naga (Rengma, Lotha, Angami, Zeliang)