Axone (Akhuni), pronounced as aah-xo(as in gathering pus to spit)- ney, is a traditional delicacy made of fermanted soyabean by the Sumi Naga tribe of Nagaland (India)
A brief background
Axone is one of the most assorted Sumi authentic delicacies enjoyed and feasted on by all tribes of Nagaland.
It is best cooked with local smoked pork. It is processed fermented food made by Soya bean widely known for the salivating extensive aroma it spreads in and around the household when cooked.
There have been a lot of stories regarding the origin of Axone (Akhuni as pronounced by majority of the Nagas.) but the most trusted source is that of a folktale about a young lady by the name KUJUNAKALI.
Who is Kujunakali?
Kujunakali was a daughter of Apuza (grandmother) Mutale. Her parents died when she was young. So in her tender age she was looked after by her uncle and his wicked wife. She was brought up in the house where there was least concern for the pot child.
Also Read: Pork with Bamboo Shoot.
Every morning she had to cook and feed her uncle’s family and then was made to go work in the field all alone, after returning from the day’s field work she was made to attend to the house hold works one after another till late at night.
Everybody at home ate proper food but she was offered only the cold leftovers. In spite of her sincerity and hard work she was ill treated and was denied parental love and affection.
While sending her off for the field work in torn misshaped clothes and the only edible her aunt packed for her mid day meal was nothing but half cooked Soya beans mixed with meagre amount of shredded bamboo sticks, few rotten vegetables and poultry droppings all wrapped in a banana leaf.
After the whole day’s toil through the heat and rain Kujunakali would retire to a resting shed made of haystack called Axapiki for her meal, on finding that the food which was send to her was not fit for consumption she would keep them in the aghiyi kutsa (between the layer of the haystack on the roof of the shed) by the fire and go back home without food.
How Axone (Akhuni) came into being?
One day she went to the field without food and she was very hungry. That was when she remembered the food that she kept in aghiyi kutsa, as she opened it she found the half cooked soya bean which was already smelly and faulty by that time but it looked appealing to her eyes.
She tasted it and found it to be very rich and relishing. She dried in the sun and cooked it with water and that day she ate to her stomach’s fill and returned home.
After some day, she even invited her friends to taste it, they all tried the sample of it and they were all praise for the exotic finger licking experience and the aroma it produced. From that day she named that particular dish as ‘AXONE’ and thus the eating and use of axone began.
Etymology of Axone (Akhuni)
Axone is derived from the Sumi word ‘AXO’ which means ‘smell’. News about the taste of Axone soon started to spread among her friends that they decided to order Axone from Kujunakali in exchange for Shawls and other garments for her personal use, she also earned and saved some money from the little venture she made out of Axone, soon she became well known for the wealth she possessed.
Her marriage celebration was talked about in the whole village as she declared a huge amount of money and a pair of Mithun and other animals as her ‘Asana’ which means saving, all of these were the outcome of her sale of Axone (Akhuni).
Sumi women are considered to be rich and hard working by the “Asana’ they offer during their marriage. That is how one earns honour and respect from her in laws even after their marriage.
The Story of Axone (Akhuni) an excerpt from the book, “The Essence of Sumi Ethnic Traditional and Modern Attire” by Ghovili K. Achumi.