One of Nagaland’s most-savoured delicacies — found and used in almost every household — has been hidden well until now. We are talking about axone, also called akhuni, made with fermented soya beans. It comes in both powdered as well as cake form, and, sometimes, in the form of a pickle to enhance the flavour.
Dishing out details
In Nagaland, axone is considered as a common fermented product, prepared round the year by people of all tribes. Notably, it is the Sema tribe — living in the southern part of the state — which is to be credited for preparing the best axone. It is fermented in a semi-coarse soya bean paste, and has a bitter, smoked taste to it. Mostly, axone is used along with vegetables to make a stew. The people of Nagaland enjoy it with smoked pork, dried river fish and dried beef.
Why soya beans?
Soya beans suit the geography and climate of Nagaland. They are known to grow up to great heights, braving the constantly-rainy weather. They are also rich in protein.
How is axone prepared?
In its chutney form, axone is prepared by roasting and grinding some red chillies, tomatoes, ginger. The ingredients are then added together and mixed well for a great texture.
In its cake form, however, axone takes a longer time — days for the perfect fermentation to happen! Dry beans are first boiled in water, till they are tender. They are then poured in a bamboo basket and covered with a leaf, and kept near a fireplace. The heat from the fire begins the fermentation; the beans are kept undisturbed for about 4 days. After that, they are pounded and mashed, but not reduced to a fine paste. In fact, the pounding has to be gentle.
Next, the pounded cake is further divided into smaller portions, each of which are wrapped in a leaf and further allowed to ferment for a day or two. After this, they are consumed.
Since people from Nagaland consume a lot of fermented food, they judge the readiness of axone by smelling them.