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Khar – The Alkaline Delicacy of Assam

Khar – The Alkaline Delicacy of Assam

Khar Served

In this story Mrs. Bani Sarmah shares a recipe of Khar an ancient ingredient that is irreplaceable in Assamese cooking. We share this recipe with added words by Somashis Gupta and assure you that this dish will surely bring another dimension of flavor to your table.

While reading the history of mankind I realized that life was not a bed of roses for us. The human race have survived passing through extreme challenges across times. These challenges led the civilizations find ways of sustainability by utilization of available resources from nature. This phenomenon over a period of time led to the formation of various cultures. When I explored these civilizations I could see a very clear change in the cultures with each changing geographic area. This change ranges from the dress to the food.

As I live on in the 21st century I see a fast moving world, the world where information reaches in the tiniest count of time from one place to another. With such fast movement culture gets modified every day, food being no exception. In spite of the rapid changes in food especially in the urban sector, there is one place which still maintains its cuisine in the traditional form, and that is the land of Assam.

I was born in Shillong and spend most of my student life in Assam. My friends did introduce me to the Assamese cuisine during those days, but to be honest it was just another delicious food to me. I never researched much on the cuisine until recently when my natural interest in the subject of food instigated me to find more.

Yes, perhaps Assam is the only region which has preserved the six tastes of ancient gastronomy. Its alkalinity is what distinguishes Assamese cuisine from the rest of India. This alkalinity is achieved by using a substance called khar. It is this khar which remains irreplaceable in any Assamese kitchen even till date. This dark brown liquid with its unique astringent is made from the ashes of a banana peel the bhim kol as known locally.

Continuing my search for the lost recipes I visited Assam again. It was during my visit in 2015, I met an incredible lady, Bani Sarmah. It was Sarmah Aunty who introduced me to Assamese cuisine again and helped me to understand these authentic recipes of the land. One such component which intrigued me the most was khar.

Sarmah Aunty also informed me that khar besides being used in food, is also an excellent cure for common ailments because of its antibacterial and antiseptic properties. Interestingly, it was used as a substitute for salt in ancient times. Being a landlocked state, far away from the coast, there was a shortage of sea salt in this region.

This amazing dish, embracing all the magic, is a must try for everyone. So I spoke to Sarmah Aunty and decided to share this recipe with you all. For the sake of global understanding I am writing the steps and the ingredients in English.  Original recipe by Mrs. Bani Sarmah is also attached for those of you who read and write Assamese.

Ingredients for 4 portions

Raw Papaya – half

Red Lentil – half cup

Garlic – 6 cloves

Ginger – ½ inch

Cooking Soda/Khar – half tea spoon

Dry red chili – 2

Green chili – as per taste

Mustard Oil – 1 table spoon

The ingredients


  1. Peel and cut the Papaya in small pieces.
  2. Heat mustard oil in a pan
  3. Once hot add dry red chili and the garlic cloves.
  4. Add the lentil and the papaya after a minute.
  5. Add salt and water.
  6. Once it starts boiling add the soda/khar.
  7. After 4 to 5 minutes add the grated ginger.
  8. Once it comes to mash consistency add some more mustard oil and remove from heat.

Step by Step


Assamese version

আমিতাৰ খাৰ ৪ জনৰ কাৰনে

See Also

উপকৰন :-

কেচা আমিতা – এফাল

মচুৰ দাইল – আধা কাপ (সৰু কাপ)

নহৰু – ৬ ফোটা

আদা – 1/2 ইঞ্চি

খোৱা চোডা – আধা চামোচ (সৰু চামোচ)

শুকান জলকীয়া – ২

জলকীয়া – সোৱাদ অনুযায়ী

সৰিয়হ তেল – ১ টেবুল চামোচ

প্ৰণালী :-

  1. অমিতা খিনি সৰু সৰু কৈ কাটি লব লাগে।
  2. কেৰাহীখন গৰম হলে তাত সৰিয়হ তেল দি গৰম কৰি লব।
  3. গৰম তেলত দুটা শুকান জলকীয়া আৰে নহৰু খিনি ভাজি লব।
  4. ১ মিনিট ভজাৰ পাছত অমিতা আৰু মচুৰ দাইল খিনি দি অলপ ভাজি লব লাগে।
  5. তাত নিমখ সোৱাদ অনুযায়ী দি দুকাপ পানী দিব লাগে।
  6. উতল আহিলেই তাত খোৱা চোডা দি উতলিবলৈ দিব লাগে।
  7. ৪-৫ মিনিট উতলাৰ পাছত তাত আদা খিনি বতি লৈ দিব।
  8. ভালকৈ সিজাৰ পাছত অলপ ডাঠ হলে বন্ধ কৰি দিব আৰু শেষত কেঁচা সৰিয়হ তেলদি নমাই দিব।

Bon Appetit

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