Chak hao Kheer Recipe: The Unique Black Rice Pudding of Manipur
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Chak hao Kheer, also known as Chak-Hao Kheer, is a delightful and unique dessert hailing from the northeastern state of Manipur, India. What sets this dish apart is its primary ingredient: Chak-Hao or black rice. Unlike the traditional white rice, black rice has a deep, purplish-black hue and is cherished for its nutty flavour, aromatic qualities, and potential health benefits due to its high antioxidant content. In this culinary journey, we will explore the recipe and cultural significance of Chak Hao Kheer, a delicacy that beautifully combines the richness of Manipuri traditions with the distinctive allure of black rice.

Ingredients for Chakhao Kheer:

* 1 cup Chakhao (black rice)

* 1/2 cup sugar (adjust to taste)

* 4 cups milk (whole or low-fat)

* 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder

* A pinch of saffron strands (optional)

* 2 tablespoons chopped nuts (almonds, cashews, or pistachios)

* Ghee (clarified butter) for roasting the nuts

* A few strands of saffron for garnish

* Freshly grated coconut for garnish


1. Wash and Soak the Black Rice:

- Begin by washing the Chakhao (black rice) under cold running water until the water runs clear. This helps remove any excess starch on the rice grains.

- Once washed, place the black rice in a bowl and cover it with water. Allow it to soak for at least 4 to 6 hours, or preferably overnight. Soaking the rice ensures that it cooks evenly and becomes tender.

2. Roast the Nuts:

- In a small pan, add a teaspoon of ghee and heat it over medium-low heat.

- Add the chopped nuts (almonds, cashews, or pistachios) and roast them until they turn golden brown. Keep them aside for later use.

3. Cook the Black Rice:

- Drain the soaked Chakhao (black rice) and rinse it once more under running water.

- In a large, heavy-bottomed pan or a pressure cooker, combine the drained black rice and 4 cups of milk. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring occasionally.

- Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low and let the rice simmer. Stir occasionally to ensure that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. This process will take some time, usually around 30 to 40 minutes. You'll notice the rice turning tender and the milk thickening.

4. Add Sugar and Flavorings:

- Once the black rice has softened and absorbed most of the milk, it's time to sweeten the kheer. Add the sugar and stir well to combine.

- Continue to cook the kheer on low heat for another 10-15 minutes, allowing the sugar to dissolve and the mixture to thicken further.

- Optionally, add a pinch of saffron strands to infuse a subtle fragrance and colour. You can also add cardamom powder for an extra layer of flavour.

5. Garnish and Serve:

- Once the Chakhao Kheer has reached your desired consistency, remove it from the heat. It will continue to thicken as it cools.

- Garnish the kheer with the roasted nuts and a few strands of saffron.

- You can also top it with freshly grated coconut for added texture and flavour.

6. Serving and Enjoying Chakhao Kheer:

- Chakhao Kheer can be served warm or chilled, depending on your preference. It's a wonderful dessert to enjoy on its own or as a sweet ending to a Manipuri meal.

- Serve it in small bowls or cups, and savour the unique flavours and nutty goodness of black rice in every spoonful.

Cultural Significance and Variations

Chakhao Kheer holds a special place in Manipuri cuisine and culture. Black rice, or Chakhao, is not just a dietary staple but also plays a significant role in Manipuri rituals and traditions. It is believed to have various health benefits, including antioxidant properties, which contribute to its reverence in Manipur.

The traditional Chakhao Kheer recipe focuses on showcasing the natural nutty flavour and deep, purplish-black hue of the black rice. However, there are variations of Chak Hao Kheer where additional ingredients like grated coconut, cardamom, and saffron are used to enhance the flavours.

This unique dessert is enjoyed on various occasions in Manipur, including festivals, feasts, and celebrations. It beautifully combines the rich cultural heritage of Manipur with the culinary wonder of black rice.

Chakhao Kheer not only appeals to the taste buds but also serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving indigenous and nutritious ingredients like black rice in the world of modern cuisine. So, if you're looking to savour a truly distinctive and wholesome dessert, give Chak Hao Kheer a try and experience the enchanting flavours of Manipur.