Culinary Expert, Writer & Consultant
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Jakhiya - An essential spice in Garhwali Cuisine. #IncredibleIngredients
Jakhiya - essential Garhwali spice.
I am not really sure when my affair with Jakhiya first began...
Was it with my first taste? At my first breakfast after I got married, on a cold Dun morning, when it crunchily asserted itself in the Hari Bhujji we ate, with ghee walli moti rotis... Or was it later, when it crackled noisily at me from hot mustard oil in the kadhai as Mom Chachi taught me how to use it). "The oil must be smoking, the Jakhiya must crackle as soon as it goes in... if the oil is not hot enough the jakhiya does not cook properly... and the last ... don't put too much, your papa does not like it because it gets caught in his teeth! Thanks to which I still remember him when this microscopic spice gets caught in my teeth! Except, in my case I love finding a stray grain of Jakhiya after a meal is done, because its pleasing nutty crunch is a shout-out from Garhwali khaana, nippy weather, food made with love, meals with family... and home.
Article by Prachi
I was reminded of this on my last trip to Dehra Dun, thanks to Manju Chachi's Jakhiya aloo. We arrived home at teatime, rather hungry from the connecting flight from Mumbai. It was between meals, too early for dinner and too late for snack but I needed something to keep me going. So it was fortuitous that Manju Chachi, my husband's aunt had sent across a big box of Jakhiya aloo, made with pahadi aloo from her garden. Jakhiya Aloo is basically a dry dish of potatoes tempered with Jakhiya garlic and local small dry potent red chillies. A simple dish as most Garhwali dishes are, low on effort but high on flavour. And a bowlful, warmed up in the microwave and tossed with lemon juice hit the spot! And Prachi Raturi's call for inputs on a story she was doing on Jakhiya is what finally got me to put this blogpost down!
Tempering for Subzi
Recently for a #MasalaDay spice exchange I had to share spices for my home cuisine, and I put in a bag of Jakhiya and Jambu. If I had to profile Garhwali flavours, Jakhiya, Jambu, dry red chillies and garlic would form the foundation of spice profile (though not always together). The tiny seeds may look unpromising but pack a fair punch. Devoid of aroma when dry, they crackle furiously to life when added to hot oil, emitting a hauntingly beautiful earthy aroma and eventually imparting a unique nutty crunch to dishes that they are added to. And having eaten and cooked with it I totally understand why most Garhwalis prefer Jakhiya over cumin and mustard seeds in ther tadka or tempering.
Jakhiya Aloo, Malai Lauki & Chaulai, all tempered with Jakhiya
Which is why, I ALWAYS have a stash of Jakhiya to hand in my kitchen. When it comes to cooking vegetables, I prefer to cook many of them the Garhwali way, with Jakhiya. In Garhwali Cuisine Jakhiya is usually used to temper dry dishes like potatoes, greens, and other vegetables. Hari Bhujji, meaning green subzi made of greens such as pahadi palak, rye (mustard), mooli ke patte, chaulai (amaranth) with a tempering of Jakhiya seeds with hot thick ghee glazed rotis are a classic everyday combination around the year and more so in the winter. And trust me, once you eat Chaulai or any green leafy veg, or Aloo ke Gutke tempered with Jakhiya... every other version will dull in comparison. Although the Chefs at JW Mussouri use it for Dals and even make a Jakhiya Pulao (a Jakhiya version of the Jeera Pulao) that I did not fancy, personally, but I am told is well loved by many visitors to the property.
Interestingly, the Jakhiya plant is a little known wild edible plant found in around the world and in many pats of India. Variously named as Asian spider flower, Cleome, Dog Mustard, Tickweed, Viscid Cleome, Wild Caia, Wild Mustard. Almost all of the plant is used in traditional medicines and treating diseases. I have yet to find out more on this, however it is my experience, that Jakhiya, has come to be a primary spice that is used more prolifically in Garhwali Cuisine than anywhere else in the world.
"Ter khet mein jakhiya ugol" goes a Garhwali folk saying, meaning 'your fields will be full of Jakhiya.' It essentially translates to 'your fields will run wild with Jakhiya if you are lazy.' Jakhiya grows prolifically and quickly in wild and/or fallow areas and is available easily, traditionally foraged. My theory is that this is why it probably came into use as a preferred tempering in Garhwali cuisine. It was easily accessible and cheap in comparison to other tempering spices such as cumin. And over the years its charms did the rest! That said, as much as it is used, you will be hard put to find it in the local supermarkets, its only available at specific local shops that cater to Garhwali communities. Until recently it was foraged and collected for use. However, with interest in Garhwali food growing off late, it has been garnering a lot more interest, with local farmers cultivating more and more of it.
At the conclusion of the Culinary Sojourn of Garhwal I curated with for the JW Marriot Mussourie, last summer there was one thing everyone wanted to take home with them. The tiny, dark brown seeds of Jakhiya. (And JW Marriott was kind enough to spoil us by generously gifting us all some.) This rather unassuming spice that grows wild all over Garhwal had pretty much dominated meals and food conversations in the preceding days. Partly because the Chefs at JW are rather enamoured of it. So much so that they tend to put it in everything! But moslty because it is that deserving and very easy to fall in love with.
Manju Chahchi's Jakhiya walle Aloo
Here is Manju Chahchi's recipe. Jakhiya aloo are great with hot parathas, dal rice and ghee, even as snacks with drinks (I can picture all my mother in laws giving me a look here), they also make a fabulous snack by themselves. I usually serve them as appetisers prior to my Garhwali meals. If Pahadi aloo are unavailable, substitue with baby potatoes or large potatoes cut into big chunks, with the skin on, do not cut them too small or they might overcook. Mustard oil is preferable for distinct flavour but ghee will do in a pinch. Heeng is a very important flavour in Garwali cuisine and we get really good heeng in Ddun of which a little granule goes a very long way so if you are using commercial heeng a generous pinch will need to go in. The chillies we use are small potent ones that grow in our garden, 4-5 are quite spicy, depending on the heat of your chillies adjust the quantities. Unfortunately there is no substitute for the Jakhiya however. Cumin can be used of course but then you will have jeera aloo, not jakhiya aloo. What you are aiming for is in-your-face spicy, tangy, salty crunchy result so adjust flavours accordingly. The coriander is optional, I like it when I serve these as an appetiser but it does not always work with rotis or dal rice.
1 kg Pahadi Aaloo, halved, skin on
3 tbsp Mustard oil
1 tiny granule DDun walla Heeng OR 1/ tsp of cmmercial heeng
1-2 tbsp Jakhiya
4-5 small dry red chillies
10-12 cloves garlic
Salt: to taste
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped (optional)
Heat the oil in a nice heavy kadhai, when hot but not smoking, add the hing, if using the stron Dehra dun one thats granular, let the granule fry and break it up. With commercial hing it will cook in seconds so dont let it burn. Add the jakhiya and let it crackle. THe oil should be hot and the jakhiya should crackle for best flavours. Do not add jakhiya to cool oil. Once it crackles add the chillies and garlic, lower flame and saute till garlic is golden. Add the potatoes, and mix well. Add the salt, and toss well again. Cook on a low flame, tossing occaisionally for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through and the skins are wrinkly and crispy. When done take of heat, add lemon juice and coriander and mix well. Transfer to a serving bowl, Garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves, and serve hot.