‘Before it feeds you, it should feed your eyes’, if you have grown up in India, you are no stranger to the emphasis we lay on the appearance of a certain dish. If a piece of meat or a vegetable has even a slight, black speck it is either turned down or tossed out, but if that piece of meat is coming straight out of a tandoor, we don’t shy away from flaunting the charred bits. It, in fact, adds to ‘the appeal’. Indian food is also renowned for its vivid colours, and yet, oftentimes we are so fixated with the ‘look’ of a dish, that if it were to be served in any other way, we may just reject it. After all, it is hard to imagine a green sharbat, or a black halwa right? Or is it? Khus Ka Sharbat, a popular sweet beverage made with poppy seeds in bottle green in colour, as opposed to the ruby red Roohazfa, similarly Kali Gajar Ka Halwa has a rich, black colour, much in contrast to the red-coloured halwa you conjure, each time you think of gajar ka halwa.  

And if you think your pristine, white kheer has no other colourful variants then meet the black rice kheer. Black rice, is a rare breed of rice that is grown in the North-eastern region of India and parts of Burma, China and South-East Asia. It was also called the ‘forbidden rice’ in China. Since its production was limited, only the upper class or the nobility could consume the rice, and the lower classes were barred from consumption of the same. With time however, the rice reached the lower class. In India, especially in regions like Manipur, black rice is used to make a delicious kheer or milk and rice pudding. It is called Chak-Ho. Manipuri black rice got its much-coveted GI Tag in the year 2020. The black colour is due to the presence of healthy pigments called anthocyanins, these rice grains are starchy and replete with essential vitamins and minerals.  

Most desserts in the northeast are very simple, they are a far cry from the elaborate or heavily ornate desserts you find in other parts of the country and Manipur sure knows how to make sure of all their lovely local produce is put to good use. This black kheer is prepared the same way as you prepare the regular kheer, except, it is milkier. Therefore, in a way Chak Ho is more comparable to Payesh of Bengal than the bitey kheer of North India.  

You can spruce up the kheer you want, add nuts and aromatic spices if you want. Chak Ho, is an intrinsic part of celebratory feasts and ceremonial occasions, but it can be a perfect dessert for an intimate gathering too. Here is a lovely recipe of Manipuri Kheer that you may like because of its creamy edge. Try making this kheer soon and let us know your thoughts.