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Keep heat at bay with indigenous tribal drink

Koraput: If you think lemon juice, cold drinks, squash and 'jal jeera' can alone quench your thirst and that of your family and guests in summer, think again. With the mercury rising fast across Odisha, here is a rustic recipe from the tribal villages of Koraput district.
The tribals, well rooted to the soil, keep themselves cool with a special diet, known as "mandia pej", a soup made of ragi powder and stale water of boiled rice.
"Buying soft drinks from the market is expensive. Cold drinks also contain harmful chemicals that may cause physical complications. Also, these are not available in our village. To keep our body cool, we drink lots of mandia pej. It is prepared in all households and is very economic," said Daitari Durua of Siribeda village in Boipariguda block.

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Preparation of the drink is very simple. After powdering ragi, it is mixed with stale water of boiled rice and kept in a covered container for a couple of days. Once this soup gets sour, it is ready for consumption. It not only helps cool the body, but also proves refreshing after a hard day's work.
The significance of this fluid diet in a tribal life can be best judged by the fact that it is also sold in the 'haats' (weekly markets).
A visit to a 'haat' can never be complete without a glass of 'mandia pej'. Neither can anyone visiting the house of a Koraput tribal return without a glass of this unique drink.
While going to work as a daily labourer, they carry a container full of 'mandia pej'. Age is no bar among the tribals for this fermented drink.
From children as young as three years old to the aged, everyone is ready to raise a toast.
"From children to the elderly, all consume 'mandia pej'. Apart from keeping the body cool, it is also very nutritious. During summer, we reduce rice consumption and drink more of 'mandia pej' instead. We can never have enough of it," another Siribeda resident said.

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