The Forbidden One

Image by: Het Shah Studio

I haven’t traveled to North East India, the culture, the people, the food, I am yet to experience in person. One state that has my interest is Manipur, it’s one of the eight northeastern states in India, shares its domestic borders with other northeastern states like Nagaland, Mizoram, Assam and international border with Myanmar. This makes the state play host to different cultures and traditions and cuisine.

Its earthy and nutty in flavour, and has an Umami to it! Best served with sour and tangy fruits to balance the rich, sweet, savoury creaminess of the dish. Wondering what is the dish?

Let me break the suspense, its Chak Hao Kheer. It’s a famous dessert in Manipuri cuisine, Chak Hao means black rice. Due to its propinquity to the far east, Manipur has acquired a unique taste in its cuisine.

Now the history part of the dish, this sweet dessert cooked from the famed black rice from the far east specially China is a treasured delicacy and no feast is complete unless you have served it to your guests. However, in China, during older times this rice was also called as forbidden rice because it was only available to the royal kitchens.

Black rice is cultivated in small proportion in these states and not so widely found in India. Black rice is an excellent source of fibre, amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Its colour changes to dramatic purple when cooked.

So, when you wonder “why visit Manipur?”. I just gave you a very good reason!

Fun Fact: After blueberries if there is something rich in antioxidants, it is Chak Hao.

From the Peacock Throne

Meethi boliyaan sun lo
Aasmaani rangon ki
Meethi boliyaan sun lo
Bezubaani lamhon ki

As it’s commonly said in India, shuruwat tou meethe se hi hoti hai!
Here is ‘Sevaiyaan,’ a dish that I am fond of. The most beautiful thing about it is the creaminess & the nutty flavour.

I often think how things might have been decades & centuries ago.
This particular dish dates back to Mughal reign in India. The cooks in royal kitchens decided to make a ghee (clarified butter) and sugar dessert keeping vermicelli as its base. Milk was used but only moderately & finished with lots of nuts.

Sevaiyan that we get today in market is rolled out using machines, wondering how they handcrafted it, makes me love it more. However, not everything is lost in this instant world, handmade vermicelli can still be found in Old Hyderabad. If you get a chance do take a look at the art of making it because the machine made ones can never replace the taste that comes from the ones that are heartcrafted.

The word ‘Sevaiyaan’ however may have derived from Sanskrit word “Sevika”