729. Bengana and Shanmehali Xaakor Khar
Assam – The Red River State
November is when the Shhh Cooking Secretly Group visited Assam. Assam is a state in the North East of India. Its strategic location makes it the ‘Gateway to the Seven Sister States of North East India’. Assam’s history goes way back to the ancient times, having been mentioned in the Mahabharata, was known as Asham during Aurangzeb’s time and the British developed the tea estates during the British Rule. Assam is well known for its flora and fauna and the famous tea estates. Assam itself has nearly 500 varieties of orchids. Its also known as the state of the Red River due to the presence of the Brahmaputra. Its a state rich in culture and traditions.
Coming to the Assamese Cuisine, Assamese are by and large non vegetarians. The staple food is rice. Their food is not too spicy or oily but is still rich in taste. They make use of naturally growing herbs and vegetables which is used in making fish and meat dishes. Most of the dishes prepared are served with a variety of rice. A lot of the dishes have khar added. Khar is prepared by burning banana stems or banana peels. It adds a distinct flavor to the dishes and is suppose to be soothing for the stomach.Most popular meat used is pigeon, duck, mutton, pork besides fish. Sweet dishes are usually made using rice called pitha. Assam is famous for Buth Jolokia or Ghost Pepper which is the hottest chili in the world.
My partner for this month was Aruna who blogs at Aaharam. Her blog has a variety of recipes including many from Andhra Cuisine. The friendly and ever helpful Aruna gave me Brinjal and Fenugreek leaves as my two secret ingredients. I gave her colocasia leaves and masoor dal. Do check out her blog to see what she has prepared with those two ingredients.
With those ingredients at hand I made Bengana Shanmehali Xaakor Khar which is basically mixed herbs khar with Brinjals. As I was not able to get the original khar that is used in Assam, I had to substitute it some soda bicarbonate or baking soda. This vegetable preparation is basically a healthy dish, but the addition of the baking soda though in a tiny quantity added a unique taste to it. I think whenever I prepare it again, I’ll give baking soda or khar a skip. The main flavors for this dish are from the mixture of greens and mustard oil.
So lets get to the recipe. My recipe source is assamese cuisine.com which I cannot link at the moment as the site is temporarily suspended.
|Image courtesy of Google|
BENGANA AND SHANMEHALI XAAKOR KHAR (MIXED HERBS KHAR WITH BRINJALS)
2 medium (200g) brinjals/eggplants
2 large onion, chopped
2 cups chopped amaranth
1 cup chopped fresh fenugreek (methi)
1 cup chopped fresh mustard leaves
1 cup chopped spinach
1 large sprig of curry leaves, chop the leaves
½ cup fresh coriander, chopped
1 tsp ginger paste
2 tbsp mustard oil
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
¼ tsp soda bicarbonate (baking soda)
1-1½ tsp salt
2-3 green chilis, chopped
- Cut the brinjals into cubes or strips.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wide pan over medium heat.
- Add fenugreek seeds. As soon as it begins to sizzle, add the chopped onion and chopped curry leaves.
- Saute till it becomes soft.
- Add chopped brinjals, ginger, salt and baking soda.
- Mix well. Cover the pan with a lid and lower the heat. Let the brinjal cook till its done.
- Add the chopped chilis and all the greens.(herbs)
- Cover the pan and cook till the greens wilt.
- Mix well.
- Just before serving drizzle the remaining oil over it and you can add some more green chilis on top.
- Serve this healthy dish with some cooked rice.
- The amount greens I’ve used is just a rough guideline. You can use whatever greens or herbs are available.
- The original recipe added some sugar which I omitted.
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