Natural treasures of Northeast India, these unique varieties of xaak are delicious and good for health
It’s true that the traditional Assamese thali is a lot about seasonal produce, but when it comes to greens - or xaak in Assamese - you will be spoilt for choice. The northeastern state is a treasure trove of local herbs and leafy plants that not just add a distinct taste to every dish, but also come with medicinal properties and health benefits. Move over your regular Lai and Paleng Xaak to explore some of the most unique varieties of plants and vines that are native to the culinary culture of this region. Here’s a ready reckoner.
Facebook/@dipaliblaskar; Dhekia Xaak
An integral part of the traditional Assamese thali, dhekia xaak - the coiled fronds of fiddlehead greens - is a native of the Himalayan foothills. Simply sautéed or added to a variety of curries and dry-fries, dhekia xaak is delicious in every form. Some of the popular fiddlehead fern dishes include Dhekia Xaak Bhaji, Dhekia Xaak Aru Aloo, Dhekia Bilahi Masor Tenga, Boror Tenga Aru Dhekia Xaak and Dhekia Xaak’or Logot Koni.
The Indian Pennywort, or manimuni, grows abundantly near the wetlands in different parts of Assam. Loaded with restorative properties, manimuni is said to be a blessing for skin care. Also popularly known as Brahmi, this perennial herb helps to enhance your memory. In terms of food, people in the northeastern state cook a number of dishes with manimuni. Kawoi Maas Aru Manimuni Xaak and Manimuni Xaak Aru Norosinghor Julot Dia Rou Maas are among the preferred ones.
Facebook/@the_oo_morok_trails; Bhedailota Pakora
3. Bhedailota Paat
Another easy-to-miss creeper that forms an integral part of Assamese cuisine, Bhedailota Paat is a skunk vine with numerous health benefits. Also known as Malabar Spinach, Puroi Xaak and Paduri Lota, these leaves of this climber exude a strong sulphurous smell. Bhedailota Bor and Bhedailota Aru Norosinghor Julot Dia Bhokua Maas are among the popular dishes.
Facebook/@afoodiesdiary; Sojina Paat
Yes, Sojina Paat are your favourite moringa leaves. It’s rich in magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, zinc and a host of vitamins. These tender drumstick leaves are considered superfood and make their way into various dishes in Assamese households. Popular among those are Sojina Paator Bor, Sojinar Sorsori, Sojina Paat Bhoja and Sojina Xoriyoh’t Dia. Many also love sojina paat in masoor dal.
Facebook/@rashmipawe; a side dish cooked with Kosu Xaak
5. Kosu Xaak
A tropical plant, Kosu Xaak - also known as Colocasia, Arbi or Taro leaves - grow abundantly in the entire Northeast India. The plant’s stems and roots are also edible. It includes high amounts of oxalic acid, which may cause irritation in your mouth and throat. Kosu Xaak helps you maintain a healthy digestive system. It’s said to be good for your heart and also contains anti-ageing properties. Therefore, it is important to boil the leaves and throw the water before cooking. Popular delicacies made using it include Kosu Xaak Boot Aru Mosur Dailor Logot, Gahorir Logot Kosu Xaak and Kolpatot Diya Mua Maas Aru Kosu Xaak.
Instagram/@letscooksimply; fish curry cooked with Tengesi Xaak
The deliciously sour Tengesi Xaak - Sorrel Leaves - are widely consumed by the state indigenous communities. It’s rich in Vitamin C and has a number of health benefits, particularly enhancing your digestion and immunity. Thanks to its tangy flavour, Tengesi Xaak is a favourite ingredient in Assamese fish recipes.