Khar is a unique Assamese dish, traditionally served as a starter. Traditionally, pure khar uses kola khar as its main ingredient. Kola Khar is prepared by sun-drying the peels of the bheem khol banana tree trunk, burning them to ashes, and then filtering water through them. It is an alkaline preparation that is believed to have medicinal properties. The dish is served before the main meal to help prepare the digestion for the flavours to come in the main meal.
These days kola khar is often substituted with other items, usually baking soda. Khar can be made with a variety of ingredients – pulpy vegetables such as gourds, papaya, pumpkin, zucchini, eggplant and cucumber, as well as lentils and a variety of greens. Today we are using Mung Beans although toor dal and urad dal are also common. We have seen it made with rice flour and no lentils.
Mustard greens and some chilli leaves are used in our dish today, although Spinach would be equally as fine. I have added a couple of betel leaves, because they are in the fridge and they give a lovely flavour. However, there is no need to be so exotic. Use spinach and/or mustard greens, or whatever greens you have. The recipe has a lot of garlic in it which softens its raw bite due to the cooking and adds a lovely umami flavour. Don’t confuse this dish with Lebon Khar, which is a Middle Eastern dish of cucumber and sour cream or yoghurt with a vinegar and mustard dressing.
Similar dishes include Mung Dal with Green Mango, Bengali Mung Dal, and Mung Dal with Ghee.
Browse more of our Assamese recipes, all of our Mung Bean dishes, and our Dals. Browse our Indian recipes here and our Indian Essentials are here. Or take some time to explore our Late Spring dishes.
Continue reading “Khar | Assamese Garlicky Flavoured Mung Beans with Greens”
I remember my first trip to India, travelling the back-roads of Goa with a gorgeous Indian tourist guide for the day. He pointed out some betel nuts drying on the sides of the roads. In all of my naivety, I said to him “Don’t betel nuts make you go funny?” With a sage wiggle of his head, he replied “My dear, there are many things in India that make you go funny.”
How right he is, and not all of them in the hallucinogenic way.
Actually, betel leaves have many uses in India and beyond. Some of them spiritual, some of them artistic, some of them culinary. Today’s use is in a salad, and it is not Indian, but Thai, with the telltale flavours of sour, sweet and hot melded perfectly together.
I have heard that Betel Leaves are not from the same plant as Betel Nuts, but rather a plant closely related to pepper. They can be eaten raw, and are often used as a wrapping for food in India and Thailand.
You might also want to try Miso Sesame Dressing, Steamed Thai Eggplant and Zucchini, Steamed Eggplant with Sesame and Soy, and Ottoleghi’s Steamed Eggplant and Soy Dish.
Our Thai dishes are here, and our Salads here. Be inspired by our Summer dishes here and here.
Continue reading “A Wicked Tamarind and Lime Dressing and a Thai Betel Leaf Salad”