Monday, 3 December 2007

Tongba nights



Tongba, or also known in other places as `Bamboo`

I discovered this local brew for the first time whilst on the Singalia treck.
One night I was invited over to join our guide with some of his friends, to congregate around their fire and participate in a bit of a Tongba drinking ceremony, or locally know as where I come from, getting pissed up around a camp fire!

I have to say it was really quite good and since then I developed a taste for this mildly alcoholic, special brew.

I found that it varies from place to place, subtle differences in taste and strength, so you build up your own personal liking to a particular variety and often becomes an interesting evening pastime, to seek out these seemingly secret Tongba drinking dens, taking you down secret allies and dark, backroom corners. I never found out why, but there seemed to be some sort of black market, taboo sort of feeling about it all with the locals, maybe a religious thing or just illegal?

Tongba is brewed from red millet grain, fermented with some sort of yeast, which I did manage to find in a local market, it looked like white chalk with a piece of jungle fern in it, I did ask what this was and they said it was a secret ingredient, `jungle magic` so with this you can brew up your own Tongba and dispell any unwanted demons at the same time.

To make it I believe the grain is put into a large container, boiling water is poured over, magic jungle yeast is crushed and mixed in, then left for a few weeks to ferment.
When it is ready the grain is scooped up and served directly into a drinking vessel, traditionally a wooden container which has a lid, then boling water is poured to cover the grain, you then leave this for five minutes or so to let it all brew a little and then it is drunk through a straw made of thin bamboo, hence the local name `Bamboo`

The taste is hard to describe, a sort of a mildly alcoholic taste of sweetish grain, like you had been too impatient to wait for it to finish fermenting properly, but I found it very refreshing after trecking, the alcohol relaxes the muscles and because you keep filling it up with  plenty of hot water, maybe three or four times you get hydrated well after a hard days walk. Well that`s my excuse anyway. It1s good, I even think it is good and healthy for you, just my feeling. I like it. I recommend it.

Be warned though it does creep up on you after three or four or errr I lost count, errr I lost my keys and errrr where the hell am I?