Ngamu Leirou or smoked Lata fish is very costly. This fish is sold online at Rs 350 per 50 grams. For a kilogram of Ngamu Leirou, you have to spend around Rs 3000-4000.
Why Meetei Ngamu or the Orientalis fish is very expensive in Manipur. This fish is known by lata fish, mud fish or Snakehead fish in other places.
This fish is available in every ponds, lakes and swampy areas. Rearing this fish in the farm is very easy. Whenever there is a water bodies, Ngamu fish is available. It can bear the drought season as well.
When there is less water, it will survive in the mud and once rainy season arrives, it came out from the mud.
During heavy rainfall, it can travel on the surfaces too. So, this fish is supposed to fly from one place to another.
What is so special about Meetei Ngamu
Meetei Ngamu is an indigenous fish of Manipur. Meetei Ngamu Thaba or Ushin sinba is a tradition implying the bio diversity conservation of the Nature.
During a Meetei marriage ceremony, two Meetei Ngamu are set to flee in the water bodies like pond or river. This is for the cordial and happy living in the future of the newly wedded bridegrooms. This event is called Meetam Nga Thaba.
Another traditional belief in Meetei culture is that, one Meetei Ngamu of greater energetic and healthy stage is set free in water to substitute for a person in bad health and illness. This is done so that the person may be free from all sorrow. The event is known as Ngamu Ushin Thaba
Chahong Ngahong Nga Thaba is practiced in different villages substituting for masses. This is for the well being of the villagers. It is called Shingtek Shingthaba.
Meetei Ngamu is related with the evolution of human race as well. Ngamu Meetam Nga is considered to be the first prototype of human being. Lord Sanamahi made Ngamu which was given life by Salailel Sidaba and set free in water. Many human evolution theories were confused about the exact origin of life and human evolution for centuries.
Later, a Chinese scientist, Min Zhu and a Swedish scientist, Per E Ahlberg came up with new theory that human being is evolved from a fish in water, which supported our Meetei philosophy of human evolution.
Importance of Ngamu Leirou
All fish are high in protein. Ngamu leirou are given to pregnant women. Meetei believes that Ngamu fish is the source for energy and well being of the mother and the child during pregnancy.
Even after the child is born, the lactating mothers are given Ngamu leirou as a special diet. This gives the mother more strength and complete nutrients required by the mother.
In every religious ceremony or the indigenous culture of khayom lakpa, Meetei Ngamu is used. In local market, fresh meetei ngamu are sold at Rs 600 per half kg.
How Ngamu Leirou are prepared
Fresh Meetei Ngamu are smoked in a specially made dryers. The flesh of Ngamu are carefully dried. Ngamu leirou are hard and crunchy in taste.
The smoking process is down in such a way that the nutrients and taste of the fish are carefully preserved. It takes minimum 5-7 days of natural sun drying after smoking the fish.
It can be stored for a long duration. The dried smoked fish are nowadays sold online.
Uses of Ngamu Leirou in food recipe
Every Manipuri used Ngamu leirou in different ethnic local food recipe. We can use this fish item in Eromba, Kangsoi, Morok metpa and as fried fish in the menu.
The hentak thongba with Ngamu leirou and hentak is a specialty of Meetei cuisine.