Soya Bean – an Ingredient for the Most Notorious Dish of Meghalaya!

Soya Bean - an Ingredient for the Most Notorious Dish | Zizira

Soya bean is a leguminous plant that was discovered during the 11th century B.C. China is believed to be the first nation to domesticate soya bean [Glycine max (L.) Merrill] and since then it has been an integral part of their daily pulse requirement. Soya bean has high protein content in comparison to other seeds and pulses. For this reason, it has earned the most unlikely yet fitting “meat of the fields” or “meat without bones” nomenclature.

The Chinese considered the soya bean one of their essential Five Sacred Grains, along with rice, wheat, barley, and millet - Nasoya

How does the plant look like? Soya bean plant is erect and leafy and can flourish even under drought conditions. Normally the seeds sprout by the third day of sowing and it becomes a fully grown bushy plant by the 2nd month. By the 4th month it starts yielding pods of soya bean.

A young Soya bean sprout
A young Soya bean sprout

Soya Bean in Meghalaya

Meghalaya cuisine has a wide variety of uniquely flavored foods and “tungrymbai” stands out the most. Tungrymbai, a notorious dish of Meghalaya is prepared from fermented soya bean and is a local delicacy relished by the ethnic tribes of Meghalaya.

The sticky food with a somewhat unpleasant smell (if you are new to it) is a very popular dish which serves as a chutney substitute as well as a side dish.

Quick Gist of How Tungrymbai Is Made:

  • Soya bean seeds* are soaked overnight and boiled till they are tender and soft.
  • Excess water is drained off.
  • It is then placed in a basket over a locally grown fresh wrapping leaf.
  • This basket is then kept in a jute bag and left to ferment naturally.
  • It requires temperatures of about 25-40 C, preferably near a fireplace for 3-4 days.
Tungrymbai prepared with black sesame

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Types of Soya Bean

Soya bean is classified into two types: Glycine max which is the domesticated bean and Glycine soja, the wild soya bean. Though different in characteristic and their uses, both are from the same species.

How Healthy is Soya Bean?

Soya bean has high protein content due to the large nitrogen-producing nodules in its roots. It comprises of Vitamins B and K, Calcium, Magnesium and Iron. Regular intake of soya bean is believed to help reduce cholesterol, improve blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease.

In a recent study, British researchers found that soy beans contain chemicals called isoflavones, which mimic the protective attributes of oestrogen. This helps in protecting the bones from weakening, which would have eventually led to Osteoporosis.

Brown Soya bean
Brown Soya bean

Uses of Soya Bean

Soya bean was known as “golden or miracle bean” among the Americans in the early 20th century. In Eastern countries, soya bean is naturally consumed in the form of non-fermented foods like soya milk (from which tofu is made) and fermented food like soya sauce and bean paste.

Western countries, on the other hand, consume soya bean that has been highly processed like soya ice-cream and all vegetable non-dairy whipped topping. Meghalaya’s hilly terrain and its climatic condition are highly favorable for growing leguminous plants like soya bean.

In fact, the farmers of the region plant soya bean in between cops to fertilize and regenerate the soil. Moreover, legumes do not need much water and can withstand cold weather, hence a perfect crop for the winter months of the pristine hills of Meghalaya.

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