Assamese fish and cucumber curry (Khar)
Banana alkali is one of the magic ingredients from the Northeast it is a mild liquid derived from the stems of specific banan tree stems that are burned and water is strained through the ash to make khar. It is suggested to have various nutritional benefits, including aiding digestion. To learn more on this unique flavoring agent click here.
On a tangent liquid khar was also an ingredient that was essential for health of the local tribes. The Northeast of India did not have salt and the liquid khar substituted for the lack of salt. The nutrition in the liquid khar is rich in nutrients and salts compensating for regular salt. Khar is always served on the table and is the dish that is eaten first mixed in with rice. It is a mild dish, one that serve to open up your palate and stomach, much like an appertif. The soft cucumber is broken down and the fish adds a lovely mild falvour to the dish. This is a delicate dish for fish lovers, but the “umami” is delicious.
4 tablespoons mustard oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Salt, to taste
1 lb fish fillets, Katla or rohu fish
2 tablespoons mustard oil
1 teaspoon whole panch poran mix, commercial brand is ok
2-3 green chillies, sliced in hlaf longitudinally
1 lb cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons 1/2 tablespoons banana alkali (Kalchinor Kahr)
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup water
Rub the fish fillets with the turmeric and salt and allow to marinate for 30 minutes. Heat the mustard oil in a shallow frying pan and fry the marinated fish till well cooked through. Cool the fish and break up removing all the bones. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a shallow wide dish. Add the panch poran mix and fry for 20 seconds till the spices darken. Add the green chilies and fry for 20 more seconds. Add the cucumber, turn up the heat to medium and cook till the cucumber has softened, about 10 minutes.
Add the Khar and mix in well. Cook for 10 more minutes till you see the cucumbers begin to break down. Add the fish, salt and water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes till the dish has thickened. Taste and adjust salt.
Serve hot or at room temperatur.