Yongchak: The Dying Bean in Manipur

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh *

 Yongchak : Vegetables sold at Ema Keithel (Khwairamband Keithel) as seen on April 05th 2019
Yongchak : Vegetables sold at Ema Keithel as seen on April 05th 2019 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

Parika Timoriana (the bitter bean, twisted cluster bean or stink bean) and commonly known as Yongchak in Manipur is a plant of the genus Parkia in the family of Fabacea and another species is ParkiaSpecio sa we call it Thai yongchak is also commonly consumed variety.

It bears long, flat edible beans with bright green seeds, the size and shape of plump almonds which have a rather peculiar smell similar to but stronger than that of the shiitake mushroom, due to sulphur containing compound, also found in shiitake, treeffles and cabbage. It is also known as petai or pete in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. The petai tree can grow to about 30 meter.

It bears flowers in a light bulb shaped mass at the end of long stalk. The flower secretes nectar that attracts bats and other pollinators. The fruit emerge as long twisted, translucent pods in a cluster of seven or eight pods. When those pods are mature, within them will reside the petal beans or seeds P-Timoriana or Yongchak in Manipuri has earned its nickname “Stink bean “because of its strong smell is very pervasive.

It lingers in the mouth and body. Like other beans their complex carbohydrates can also cause strong smelling rectal gas. The great pungent smell of yongchak like asparagus tells the presence of Thiazolidine-4-carboxylic acid, a cyclic Sulfur containing Amino acid, that give a strong smell to one’s urine, an effect that can be noticed up to two days after consumption.

The Sulfur compound in P-Timoriana is Thioproline. Biologists and observers reported that content of biochemical and nutritional values in the tender pods were superior to other stages. The tree bean serves as the basic needs of protein and fat to meet the ever increasing requirements. The elements and minerals present in the Yongchak or petaiare: 42.50% Fe, 36.33% C, 20.00% protein, 15.38% Vitamin B2, 13.00% carbohydrates. Its calorific value is 124 Kcal/cup calories.

The health benefits of Yongchak or Petai are: ease of depression, PMS ( Premenstrual Syndrome), Anemia ;Blood pressure; constipation, hangover, heartburn, Morning sickness, mosquito bite, nerves overweight, ulcer, temperature control, smoking stress, strokes, warts, healthy eye, improve brain power and concentration, improving digestion and seasonal affective disorder.

The seed as well as tender pods are known to cure stomach disorder and regulate liver function. Pods pounded in water are used in cleaning the face and head. The soil extracts of the plant possesses insecticidal properties. The wood can be used as a source of paper pulp.

In marketplace, depending on the country of origin, parkia species may be labeled Wakerec, Petai, Yongchak, in ThadouJonglha. They are best when combined with other strongly flavored foods such as garlic, chili peppers, dried shrimp or shrimp paste as in sambalpetai.

When young, the pods are flat because the seeds have not yet developed and they hang like a bunch of slightly twisted ribbons, pale green, almost translucent. At this stage they may be eaten raw, fried or pickled. Young tender pods with underdeveloped beans can be used whole in stir-fried dishes. The seeds are also dried and seasoned for later consumption. When dried, the seeds turned black.

Petai beans or seeds look like broad beans. Like mature broad bean, they may have to be peeled before cooking. InIndonesia;Petai (yongchak) is very popular in highland of Java and Sumatra, especially among Sudanese, Minangkabaue and many other people in different culture of the Island. In Sudanese cuisine, petai might be eaten raw with sambal as part of lalab, fried or grilled.

It can also be stir fried and mixed with oncom. In Java and Sumatra, it also might be added to sayurlodeh or sambalgorengatipetai(fried chicken liver in sambal&petai). Nasi goring kambingpetai is popular variant of nasi goring (fried rice) with goat meat and petai. In Minangkabaue cuisine, it usually become part of lado( Minangsambal) for ayam pop (padang style fried chicken).

In Manipur, it is grown mainly on all the hilly districts especially Kuki inhabited areas, who called it Janglha, Hamar tribes called it Zawngta. It is grown in the hill districts and some part of Manipur valley too. Varieties found here are somewhat harder than the counterpart of Thailand or Malaysia. The wild varieties from the hills are more commonly sold in market. Some species of parkia are grown in small scale by farmers in north-east India. In mainland India, it is grown as an ornamental plant, shade and border tree.

This bean has become an important ingredient in many food items in Tripura too. In Manipur, the seeds or the bean as a whole are eaten by preparing a local delicacy like Hmarchadeng, Eromba or YongchakSingju (Salad). Eromba is very common cuisine in Manipur made with boiled potato, fermented fish, chili and other vegetables.

Yongchaksingju is another favorable side dish made with parkia cut into small pieces and then mixed with red hot chili paste. Parkia is also used for making various other dishes with fish and vegetables. The Kuki Tribes, a tribe from North-East India called it Janglha and relished it with almost like a special vegetable.

Rongmei Tribe of Manipur, Nagaland and Assam called it Kampai, which is cooked with meat or prepared as salad and sometimes seeds are eaten with chettni made of dry fish. The Hmar tribes of Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Manipur called it Zawngta and mainly prepared it with chili, sodium bicarbonate, little amount of salt and special fermented pork called saum and called it Zawngta-rawt.

In Mizoram, the Mizo people are also very fond of it and called it zawnglah and they use to prepare it with chili and fermented pork called saum which is same as sathu of Manipur.

There is a vast decline of yongchak population in the valley of Manipur and no reason has left for the cause of becoming a vulnerable species. No report has yet to be reported. Many believe to be the wave of mobile phone and mobile tower; other reported the change in environmental factor while remaining fixed on plant pollinated animals.

In short, all the three parameters are related with the yongchak issue. It is reported that electromagnetic wave/ radiation from mobile phone and tower affects the birds, animals and plant environment. The fact is, Biologists and researchers believe the loss of yongchak is due to the verticillium wilt disease spread all over the valley of Manipur, the symptom is quite similar with the radiation caused by mobile tower.

It is also reported that the electromagnetic wave also distracts the flying foxes (bats) to reach its final destination for food, shelter and to pollinate. Flying foxes represent a major role in the principal pollination pattern and seed dispersal of the tree bean. Climatic condition is also another factor.

The dry up of yongchak in the valley of Manipur may be due to rise in temperature or precipitation asyongchak needs warm climatic condition. A detailed study is required to evaluate the population status of parkia in Manipur.

* Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer can be reached at sjugeshwor7(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on December 23 2020 .

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