Garo Sticky White Rice Reflects Age-old Traditions
Garo sticky white rice or Minil as it is called embraces a galore of traditions and celebrations. Garos are one of the three tribes of Meghalaya. Legends say that they originally inhabited the province of Tibet named Torua. But, they left that area and wandered along the Brahmaputra valley and gradually moved to Meghalaya.
Garos use sticky rice for Wangala festival celebrated in October, around harvest time. In this do a Large quantity of rice beer, called Mi’bitchi, is prepared using sticky rice. The Garos prepare steamed sticky rice during Christmas and New Year. There is an age-old, heart-warming tradition, where relatives from the mother’s side are greeted by serving cooked sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf.
What is Sticky White Rice?
Sticky white rice is a distinct form of short grain rice and contains a component called amylopectin. Lack of amylose, a starch that helps separate the rice grains gives it the stickiness. It indicates high content of starch. Although known as glutinous rice, it is actually gluten-free. It is a source of stamina, being rich in carbohydrate. It has many minerals and vitamins like thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, selenium and zinc. Sticky rice provides glucose to nourish the brain, liver and muscle function. Its high-fibre content lowers risk of heart problems.
Back in the old days, when the Garo people had to travel, they had to be smart to not add to the weight they had to carry. At the same time, they needed to carry food. So, they would leave their heavy and fragile earthen pots behind and used bamboo to cook their rice.
Pieces of bamboo were cut in lengths of a foot or two. The bamboo was filled with water and sticky rice, propped against a horizontal stick and supported by two forked upright sticks. With the fire burning around them, the rice would cook beautifully. And, would retain the aroma and flavor of the bamboo. The bamboo would then be split open to reach the cooked rice.
Garo sticky white rice has a nutty essence and soft texture. Excellent for making sweet and savory delicacies such as the Pita, Sakin and Jakep. Not heard of these? Well, these are from Meghalaya and we have the images of all three and the recipe of one for you.
Sticky rice is first soaked in water for a short while till the grains are a bit soft, then dried and ground into a fine powder using a big pestle and mortar. The sticky rice powder is sieved and only the fine powder is used to make the snacks. Sticky rice (or Minil as it is called) powder, can also be used as a thickener for soups and gravies.
A Sweet Delicacy of the Garo People
Here is a recipe of Sakin gata (sticky white rice cake) which is a sweet delicacy of the Garo people.
3 cups of sticky rice
1 cup of ordinary rice
a handful of black sesame seed
2 cups of powdered sugar
Soak sticky rice in water overnight. Drain the water and dry the rice for about 3 hours. Pound the rice using mortar and pestle until it turns into a fine powder. Note: You can use the dry grinding attachment of a blender too!
Take the ordinary rice and soak it in water for about an hour.
Next heat a pan and roast black sesame seed until it crackles and releases an aroma. Let it cool. Pound this into finely coarse form.
Add powdered sugar to the powdered sticky rice and mix together.
Next take an earthen pot having few holes at the bottom. Layer it with a banana leaf with slits in a few places, and a layer it with soaked rice. Slits in the banana leaf ensure that the holes are not blocked. (* Note: The pot has two layers. Each layer has few holes. Banana leaf and soaked rice are placed on the top layer. The top layer is where the mixture will be placed)
Then put a layer of the powdered sticky rice and sugar mixture followed by a little of the black sesame powder. Keep filling in the same order until there are 5 layers of the ingredients.
Take another vessel and fill it with water. Allow the water to boil till it starts steaming.
Place the earthen pot on top of the hot steamy vessel. Cover the pot with a lid. Tighten the lid with a cloth so that the steam does not escape. Steam then enters the pot through the holes at the bottom.
Steam the sticky rice cake for about 30-40 minutes. Cut the cake and serve hot.
Note: You can use any flat round metal vessel with holes at the bottom, place a banana leaf with a few slits, layer the ingredients and steam the way you would for Dhokla. Garo sticky rice farmers of Meghalaya practice traditional methods of farming, without the use of inorganic components.
“We cultivate rice only for self-consumption and sell the excess after storing enough for the whole year”, said Eline A. Sangma, a lady farmer growing sticky rice.What makes Garo Sticky rice (Minil) different from other sticky rice?Minil is stickier than other sticky rice and it has been traditionally used for making a special Garo rice beer called Mi’bitchi. Apart from this Minil is also crushed and applied to heal dog bite, she added.”