Khar: The Soul Ingredient Of Assamese Cuisine
Image Credit:

Exotic herbs like Jilmil and dishes like silkworm fry, makes Assam’s cuisine unique from the rest of India. Assamese cuisine is one of the few Indian cuisines that has preserved the six flavours of ancient Hindu gastronomy which are sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent. The style of cooking and flavour distinguishes Assamese cuisine from the rest of India.

One of those flavour comes from Khar, an ingredient with both nutritive properties and cultural significance. Khar plays the role of soul ingredient in the meals of Assam. The festivals in the state are considered incomplete without this key ingredient. Mainly obtained from ashes of sun- dried banana peel, Khar is a dark brown liquid with a strong astringent smell. This ingredient is used in most of the dishes of Assamese cuisine. The process of making Khar is simple, which can be made in large batches and stored for several months.

Khar is typically made from the ashes of ripe Bhim Kol banana peel. It's very easy to make and does not require a lot of effort. The peels are divided in batches and dried in the sun. Then they are kept in cool, airtight containers. Whenever the need arises, these dried peels are burnt and Khar is extracted by filtering water overnight through the ashes of the dried peel. As the water filters through it, the peel becomes dark brown and acquires a pungent aroma.

There are other techniques to make Khar as well, like in lower Assam the stems and bark of papaya trees are used instead of banana peel and during festivals, when it is needed in a larger amount the trunk and the bulb of young banana plant are used. The trunk and the bulb of the banana plant are cut into small pieces and then dried in the sun. A small area on the ground is cleaned and prepared to burn the dried banana then the ash is collected and kept in a clean earthen pot. However, Khar made from the banana trunk has lesser strength than the one made from banana peel.

If we go back to history, Khar was a substitute for salt in ancient times. As Assam is a landlocked state, far away from the coast, there was a shortage of sea salt in this region. This gave birth to this phoenix ingredient. Nowadays readymade Khar is available in the market which has the same astringent aroma and flavour but if you want to try at home here is the simple and easy method to make Khar:

  • · Dry the banana peel.
  • · Burn the dried peel and collect the ashes.
  • · Mix the ashes with 1 cup of water and let it rest overnight.
  • · Next morning the ashes will settle down at the bottom.
  • · Filter the clear water carefully with a clean cloth.
  • · The filtered water is Khar.

There are several dishes which are cooked with Khar. Here is the recipe of 2 popular Khar dishes you can cook at home:

Paleng Xaakor Khar (Spinach Khar):


  • ½ kg fresh spinach
  • 4 tsp split pigeon peas (toor dal)
  • 1 tsp khar
  • 1 tsp mustard oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 Green chilies
  • Salt as per taste
  • ½ cup Water


  • Soak toor dal in clean, filtered water for half an hour.
  • Mince the garlic cloves and chop the green chilies.
  • Finely shred the spinach leaves.
  • Heat the mustard oil in a pan then add the garlic cloves and green chilies to it.
  • Stir-fry them for a minute or two until they become fragrant.
  • Add the soaked pigeon peas and spinach to the pan and keep stirring until the spinach shrinks and becomes tender.
  • Add salt, water, and khar to this mixture. Cover the pan with a lid.
  • Turn the flame to low heat and leave it for 5 minutes.
  • As soon as all the contents of the pan develop a mushy consistency, turn off the heat.
  • Remove the pan from the stove and serve it with steamed rice.

Matimahor Khar (Urad Dal With Khar):


  • 250 gm. split black lentils
  • 1 medium sized bulb of garlic crushed
  • 1 inch ginger, sliced
  • 2 green chilli
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp. of mustard oil
  • 1 tsp. Panch Phoron (five spices)
  • 1 cup of khar
  • 1/2 tsp of black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup water
  • Coriander for garnish


  • Wash and soak black dal for 2 to 3 hours.
  • Strain and keep aside.
  • Make a mix of 1 tbsp of mustard oil and 2 tbsp of Khaar.
  • Pressure cook the dal and half cup of Khar with 1 teaspoon salt for 2 whistles
  • In a heavy pan, heat the mustard oil.
  • Temper the oil with Panch Phoron, bay leaves, garlic and chilli.
  • Sauté for a while, till the raw fragrance of the garlic fades away.
  • Pour in the boiled dal and mix well.
  • Fry it for a minute and add water to adjust the consistency.
  • Add ginger and cook for another 5 mins.
  • Add the mustard oil and Khar mixture to the stew.
  • Stir well and garnish with coriander.

It is considered that Khar cleanses the stomach and is mainly cooked with mushy and wet vegetables for the aroma. So, try these dishes at home and enjoy the essence of Assam.