Hentak: A Traditional Fermented Fish Paste from Manipur

What is Hentak?

Hentak is a thick fermented paste in Manipuri cuisine made with sun-dried fish powder and the petioles of aroid plants. Aroid plants are plants that belong to the family Araceae, such as taro, elephant ear, and giant taro. The petioles are the stalks that connect the leaves to the stems. The small Indian flying barb fish are sun dried on bamboo trays and crushed to powder. The aroid petioles are cut into pieces and left in the sun for one day, then mixed in equal parts with the fish powder. The mixture is sealed in an earthen pot and fermented for around one week.

How is Hentak used?

Hentak is a standard ingredient in Manipuri households, where it is consumed as a condiment with boiled rice or curry1. It adds a salty, sour, and umami flavor to the dishes. It can also be mixed with other ingredients, such as chilies, garlic, ginger, onion, mustard oil, and coriander leaves, to make a spicy relish called hentak chutney. Hentak chutney can be eaten as a snack or a side dish with rice or bread. Hentak is also used to make a soup called hentak kangsoi, which is made by boiling hentak with water, vegetables, and spices. Hentak kangsoi is a popular comfort food in Manipur, especially during the cold season.

What are the benefits of Hentak?

Hentak is not only a tasty and versatile ingredient, but also a nutritious and beneficial one. Some of the benefits of hentak are:

  • Preservation: Hentak is a way of preserving fish and vegetables for long periods of time without refrigeration. The fermentation process inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria and molds, while enhancing the flavor and aroma of the ingredients.
  • Digestion: Hentak contains probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that help maintain a healthy gut flora and improve digestion. Probiotics can also help prevent or treat digestive disorders, such as diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Immunity: Hentak contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that can boost the immune system and fight infections. For example, hentak contains vitamin C from rose hips, which can help reduce inflammation and support joint health. It also contains galactolipids from rose hips, which are natural anti-inflammatory compounds that can help treat arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
  • Tradition: Hentak is a part of the cultural heritage and identity of the Manipuri people. It is a homemade preparation that is not produced for commercial markets. It is custom to serve this to expecting mothers and patients in convalescent. It is also a symbol of hospitality and friendship among the Manipuri community.


Hentak is a traditional fermented fish paste from Manipur that is made with sun-dried fish powder and the petioles of aroid plants. It is used as a condiment, a relish, or a soup base in Manipuri cuisine. It has various benefits for preservation, digestion, immunity, and tradition. Hentak is a unique and delicious ingredient that reflects the rich and diverse culture of Manipur.

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