If you visit Teknaf now, you may be surprised to come across retailers selling a rather unusual fruit by the roadsides or in the market. Ayensi – a stinky bean, is apparently the most popular snack dish in Teknaf right now. Many say that more than 90% of people in Teknaf love to eat it once a day in its season as a non-staple food.
The seeds are round-shaped in look and dark brown in colour when peeled off. It's not available all year round, but only becomes available in the wet season from June to October. It's not locally produced either. Instead, it is imported from Myanmar.
The price of these seeds is pretty high and often varies with the variation of quality and size. At a per-piece rate, good and big ones are often retailed at Tk6-8.
To process for eating, the seed is cut into halves and it can be cooked in a number of ways. Most people in Teknaf cook it by boiling first and then frying it with oil and spices or making a curry.
Some eat it just after boiling. Some say it tastes really good if cooked with chicken. Though the cooked Ayensi looks like a kind of achar/pickle, it does not taste sour. Rather it has a mild taste. While both cooked and raw Ayensi is found on streets in Teknaf, many people say they love to prepare it at home and enjoy it in a family environment.
Ayensi is native to Southeast Asia and is mostly a popular and traditional dish in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Though widely known as Jengkol or dog fruit in English, in many languages across southeast Asia, it is known by different names like djenkol, jering, da-nyin-thee. In Teknaf, it is known as Ayensi.
In Teknaf, there are some distinctive dishes such as Ayensi and Mundi. Many say Ayensi and Mundi are basically Burmese traditional dishes.
It is also very popular among Rohingya refugees. On the streets of camps, vendors are seen selling Ayensi seeds. Outside of the Rohingya camps and Teknaf, it is not seen elsewhere in the country, not even in Cox's Bazar.
Nazrul Islam, a local youth and development worker from Teknaf who loves eating Ayensi, said, "It is delicious and resembles a potato but has a pretty bad smell. If you eat it once, you will get addicted to its pungency. Although it has an unpleasant odour, It has many health benefits.
I, myself, tasted a few slices of Ayensi in Teknaf. I found it was spicy and tasted like a potato."
Apart from Teknaf being a beautiful landscape surrounded by sea, pristine river, green hills and coral island, Ayensi can be a new and exciting experience for those of who did not experience it before.
Parvez Uddin Chowdhury is a development worker.