Chakhwi: A Tribal Curry From Tripura Made With Baking Soda
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People that fight the hardest for their independence are often the ones who value its culture the most. Tripura is one such place where tradition and history are cherished above all else. The ‘Queen of Hills’ as it's called for its verdant evergreen forests was locked in political turmoil for many decades and only gained statehood in 1972. Since then tourism has been on the rise and people are finally getting a chance to experience the wonders of this North Eastern jewel.

Like many states of the North East, the cuisine is very meat-oriented with fish and pork featuring heavily on most menus. It may be bordered on three sides by Bangladesh, but the state has a very distinct cuisine of its own, developed mainly by the tribal communities or the Tiprasa. Locally this style of cooking is known as Mui Borok and as identified by the use of Berma - a dried and fermented fish that lends a strong, spicy and salty edge when used.

One of the most popular dishes within the region is Chakhwi which began as a very localised custom but has since been spreading out to people of tribes and communities outside the Tiprasa. It can be cooked with any vegetable or meat key ingredients of any variation of Chakhwi are the rice powder called Aayong for thickening and a unique ingredient called Khar.

Khar is an ingredient that dates back centuries to when ancient Hindu gastronomy suggested Alkalinity as one of its six key food tastes. It is typically made from sun-dried banana peel ashes which are then filtered through pure water overnight to leave a dark brown, astringent liquid. This in itself makes Chakhwi a labour-intensive process reserved mainly for special occasions and even in places like Assam where Khar is commonly used, bicarbonate of soda has become a quick substitute.

Most recipes for Chakhwi tend to celebrate local vegetables and dals like banana stem and ash gourd but pork, fish and of course the iconic Berma are often used for additional flavour. Here we have a recipe that used both vegetables and meat for a perfect blend of both world’s and also accounts for the use of soda instead of Khar for a quick and delicious Tripuri experience.

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  • 500 gms pork
  • 200 gms banana stem
  • 3 kafir lime leaves
  • 7-8 green chillies
  • 2 inches sliced ginger
  • 2 tbsp rice flour powder (dissolved in 100 gms water)
  • 4 tsp khar OR ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Salt to taste


  • Prep the banana stem by removing the hard fibrous layers until you reach the soft inner core and chop it into long rods.
  • Bruise the pieces with a heavy pestle or pan and squeeze out the excess water.
  • Chop into 1-inch pieces and rinse 2-3 times.
  • Bring 3 cups of water to a rolling boil in a pan, lower the flame and add your pork, khar (or soda) and salt. Cook for 20 minutes uncovered.
  • Add the chopped banana stems, slit green chillies and ginger slices, cover and cook for 15 minutes until the meat is tender.
  • Add the rice flour paste and kaffir lime leaves stirring gently for 5 minutes as it cooks.
  • Serve hot with plain white rice.