Born and raised in Manipur, Mawaite Tonsing learnt most of her cooking when she was growing up with her grandparents and parents who were primarily into farming.
Tonsing came to Auroville 20 years ago and worked in many places before she joined AuroAnnam, a farm, of which she became the caretaker. Started by Dr Lucas, the 13 acre farm, initially concentrated on growing cashew nut. “In 1999, we started procuring organic vegetables and fruits from other farms in Auroville, repackaging them and selling them under the AuroAnnam name. Now, the farm is only nine acres because a large chunk of the land was given to Auroville for their activities. Last month, we expanded our activities by creating an organic food and health food store and a farmer’s cafe called Kipaak,” begins Tonsing.
Describing North Eastern dishes sold at the cafe, Tonsing tells us that a lot of fermented ingredients like soya beans and bamboo shoots are used. As far as non-vegetarian dishes are concerned, they use fermented fish and pork to flavour the dishes in Manipur. “Most importantly, we eat a lot of green leafy vegetables like the leaves of beans, pumpkin leaves, etc,” she says. As of now, the menu includes dishes like sipi pumpkin, which is a dry side dish, seasoned with Manipuri herbs; bekanthu, a curry made out of tomato; and iroma ball which has potatoes and can be used as a substitute for rice. There are also healthy drinks like cucumber juice and light tea. Tonsing is not satisfied, though, and wants to make dishes the traditional way, “I want to experiment with the tribal way of preparing food. This includes cooking food directly in bamboo containers.”
Tour for a day
Tonsing is busy setting up her kitchen garden, where she plans to grow tomatoes, pumpkins, beans and herbs. She wants the cafe to be a place for experimental cooking and for events. “People can organise events like exhibitions and concerts and also prepare food,” she says, adding that, guests can also pick up organic products from the store. Every Sunday there will be an ecological tour, which will include classes on farming and culture. This will be followed by meditation and breathing exercises, and a healthy breakfast. Lunch will be vegetables barbecued the tribal way. At `500 for a day.
At Auroville, the store is open from 10 am to 5 pm. Their breakfast is priced from Rs100 onwards. Details: 0413 2623391