Khar: An Indispensable Aspect Of Assamese Cuisine

The food habits in Assamese households are renowned for their simplicity and nutritious values, fewer spices and condiments yet tasteful and delicious. A traditional ingredient “Khar”, which is scientifically an alkali, happens to be a jack of all trades. It’s made from sun-dried banana peel, (only from the Bhim Kol banana variant) which are burnt to ashes, soaked in water and filtered to give a light brown to blackish colour that can be stored for years. It is basically a banana peel’s ash extract, which gives a unique smoky, salty and bitter taste to whichever food the ingredient is added. 

Read More: 3 Easy Egg Recipes For Breakfast

Let’s learn about two of the Khar-flavoured dishes popular in Assam – 

Khar Diya Maashor Matha (Fish Head with Khar) 

Image Credits: iStock Photos

Always look for the big fish head, take off the gills and cut it into medium-big chunks 

Season it with just salt and turmeric powder, fry it on high flame until semi crisp, keep it aside 

Meanwhile chopped onions, green chillies, ginger paste, panch phoran are to be kept ready 

Heat oil in a Kadahi (pan), add the panch phoran seeds, followed by onion, some turmeric powder, sauté until onions turn light brown 

(panch phoran is a combination of 5 whole spices) 

Add the fish head, lower the flame on the cooking range, close the pan with the lid and ensure that it doesn’t get burnt 

Add warm water and let it cook, add green chillies, ginger paste and mix it well 

When it becomes tender and soft, you can smash the fish chunks (optional), add 2-3 spoons of Khar and allow it to simmer for few more mins 

Garnish it with fresh maan-dhania (wild grown coriander) and serve 

Omita Khaar (papaya with Khar)  

Image Credits: Khorisa

Wash the raw papaya before cutting, peel off its skin, throw away the seeds and cut it into small cubes (the papain has health benefits, which will go away if washed with water after cutting the papaya) 

Pressure cook the same up to 3-4 whistles so that it gets super tender 

In a pan with minimum oil, splutter some mustard seeds, green chillies, diced cloves of garlic 

Sauté lightly and add the cooked papaya, let it cook for a while so that the flavours mix well 

Put down the flame when the preparation is thick enough, add a spoon of mustard oil and mix it thoroughly 

Garnish with green chillies, cut into two halves along the axis and serve 

Khar goes well with some specially prepared cuisine of fish, pork, local chicken, green leafy vegetables, banana flower and stem, lentils and even in some raw salad preparation as well. 

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