The rice sake-making technique can be extended to other grains as well. In Nepal, the famous Tongba is an unmalted gruit beer (unhoped beer) made from millets using a two-stage fermentation (one with mold to get fermentable sugars and second with wild yeast to get the alcohol). The traditional name is mandokpenaa thee and Tongba is the serving vessel. However, the name Tongba has caught up in the popular culture so much that both are being used interchangeably.
Even the traditional way to serve and consume is really unorthodox. It is served unfiltered. The server is supposed to add hot water to leach out flavors (alcohol) from the brew and filter it using a perforated bamboo straw before consumption. Unlike most of the Indian traditional brew, this is aged from 3-6 months before serving. Considering that the climate of Nepal is cold, it is not unusual to serve and consume a hot beverage.
Tongba: Millet Gruel Recipe
- iconoic serving glass.
- 1 kg ragi and millets
- 5 gm Koji rice
- The millets are cooked for about 60 minutes (whole grain)
- The culture of mold (khesung) is inculcated into the still warm millets (much like the sake preparation where koji is added). It is stored in dark but allowed to breathe oxygen. You can taste the sweetness growing every day. If you are unable to find the culture, use the koji rice from Arishtam.
- After 1-3 days when the mold formation is visible, it is transferred into an airtight container for alcohol preparation.
- In two to three weeks we get ‘mandokpenaa thee’ which is a solid mass (not a beverage) that can be further aged for maturing (3-6 months is recommended).
- Now pour this mass into a glass, pour boiling water, wait for 5 minutes and sip the filtered brew. Typically people refill the glass, 1-3 times to extract the maltiness and alcohol before the leftover millets are discarded.