In the recent years, I had a conversation with my mother over a bowl of Wachipa she had made. I asked her if the recipe was passed down to her by her mother. She said that she actually learned it from her father.
She narrated to me the story of how on a specific day, once a year, her father along with her uncles would gather early in the morning to perform the ancestral worship ritual (Kul Pitri Puja) As part of the ceremony, a chicken would be sacrificed as an offering and then her father would use it to prepare Wachipa and then later share it with the family
Wachipa is a food that is associated with the Rai community and its cultural practices. My mother is from the Bantawa clan of the Rai community, so she grew up eating this food and has made sure I too become familiar with it.
Wachipa is a Himalayan delicacy that requires an acquired taste for it to be relished. It is a rice preparation that uses a “bitter agent” which is made from the inner burnt feather of the chicken used. In cases where chicken is not used, a specific flower, Damlapa, Is used to add bitterness to the recipe which is then called Bungchipa.
Listening to my mother’s story made it clear to my why she loved cooking Wachipa frequently. It reminds her of her father. It reminds her of the important cultural practice of worshiping ancestors. It reminds her of the fact that this very recipe is passed down to her father by his father. The knowledge of Wachipa has been orally passed down to her from her ancestors through generation after generation, and now she has taken the responsibility of passing it down to me.
I never saw my grandfather but that story has left a vivid image of him in my mind. Every time I am cooking Wahchipa, I am reminded of him. The whole process of making burnt feather powder, plucking and drying Damlapa flowers make me think of all the different ways my ancestors made Wachipa. Cooking Wachipa in my kitchen now makes me feel closer to my ancestors.
Written by:- Rajdeep Gurung
Senior Skill Instructor
School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts