Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jakhya & Chayab

On my flight back from New Delhi last week, I had all the booty in a carry bag that comprised my hand baggage, quite forgetful of the possibility that none of it would make it through security.

"What do you have in there? Some masalas?" frowned one of the assistants at the scanner, and I nodded anxiously. "Wait a minute, my colleague will have a look," he said. The colleague came over and inspected each and every packet, his expression deepening from let's-get-this-over-with to curiosity to mystification. When he asked me what they were, I told him most of them were "grains and spices from Uttarakhand", indigenous ones that I had picked up the previous day at Dilli Haat, as well as some stuff that I'd picked up from a shop in INA Market, a recommendation that Raaga passed on to me from Anita. By now, he was trying hard to hide his smiles, and said he would let everything go through, except the Kashmiri chilli powder. It's not as if I don't get it where I live, but considering that it was probably a more 'ethnic' version than the branded, supermarket variety, I opted to go back and check that bag in too!

It's from that stash that the main attractions in today's dish come. One is jakhya (right, in pic) and the other is chayab (left), but there seems to be no reference whatsoever to it on the Net, and only a little on the former. Jakhya's botanical name is Cleome viscose, as I found out here, and it's used as a spice. Last week, I used it along with chayab as tempering for daal, and it had this most interesting crunch, while the chayab tasted like the deep-fried onions that one usually comes across in biriyanis but I wanted to use them in a simple dish for the real test of their flavour.

Chayab is a dried herb, at least, it's a leaf of some sort. It has no particular smell other than that of 'dry' or even straw, but when used as tempering, it acquires some character and a taste that I can't yet describe. Definitely not deep-fried onion, though. The people who sold me these spices at Dilli Haat told me I could use them for tadka, and so that's what I've done, though neither they nor I had the time to go into details of which vegetable or other foodstuffs they go well with.

If you have more information on these spices, please tell me.

Baby potatoes, quartered: 225 gm
Mustard oil: 1-2 tsp
Jakhya: 2 tsp
Chayab: A pinch or two
Salt: to taste
Red chilli powder: 1/2-1 tsp
Turmeric: A pinch
Some water

Heat mustard oil, temper with jakhya and chayab, in that order.

Add the potatoes, the seasoning, mix well, sprinkle some water, cover and cook on a very low flame till the potatoes are done.


This goes off to Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being organised by Haalo for creator Kalyn, and is being hosted this week by Heather at Diary of a Fanatic Foodie.


  1. let me see if I an bring you some of the ethnic stuff :-)

  2. great spices but I haven't heard much of either also ..
    I am sure it taste great with dals also ..
    hugs and smiles

  3. I've used jakhia but the other herb is new to me. I like how jakhia stays crunchy and adds an interesting textural contrast to soft potatoes.
    Glad you managed to get your stash home!

  4. Wow, so interesting. I love it when people come with a type of herb or spice that no one has ever written about before, and I think you've done it!

  5. This is a nice recipe. Looks so good. But those ingredients are new to me. Nice story....

  6. You've cooked with so many exotic and unheard of (atleast, to me) spices... I didn't know that even domestic flights are so particular about carrying masalas.

  7. Raaga, I'm getting the list ready ...
    Jaya, yeah, the jakhya, especially, is very nice and crunchy, like the tiny bits left over from deep-fried savoury snacks.
    Yeah, Anita, I was looking for a way to describe the crunch of jakhya - it's like deep-fried cornflakes.
    Kalyn, there are a few more waiting!
    Sukanya, it's trial and error, hit and miss, but no missing here this time :-)
    Laavanya, oh yes, they are - I don't travel very often, that's why I forgot, I think. Some airlines even object to toiletries in hand baggage

  8. Some unknown spice list... Very aromatic i guess. Do they even check spice in carry bag?

  9. Sra, Wow new spice additions is always exciting to me, ee sari India vasthe Delhi ne vellali so will try picking these up.

  10. Sra those potatoes look so delicious. Yesterday I saw these baby potatoes in the market but somehow skipped it. And I could understand the smile of the person who did the checking. And welldone for getting these precious things out of those to satiate your tastebuds. Would like to loot your pantry sometime!

  11. This is the second time you've had me going Huh, what's that???

  12. Never heard of either spice before. Very exotic sounding stuff.
    The security officer must have nevr seen such a stash of spices before. Probably thought it was some contraband stuff! :)
    Now I know who to check with before I travel to Delhi. :D

  13. Potatoes being universally loved look and taste good with any spice I think :)

  14. Cham, yes, I guess powders can be misused if someone wants to create trouble ...
    Sreelu, yeah, Raaga tells me you get everything in INA market, even the most esoteric stuff.
    Ni, come over any time! Baby potatoes are nice these days, new, I think, and look good too.
    Jayashree, :-D Look out for at least one more recipe!
    Aparna, you should have seen their expressions! I'd never heard of them either, bought them only because they were so novel!
    Vidya, could be, could be. Could it also be that they have not much taste of their own and absorb spices' tastes v well?

  15. It was nice to hear about your Delhi Haat and INA..They have some of the real exclusive stuff..

  16. Some new spices... Potato recipe looks awesome. What about the taste? How did the potatoes taste?? :-)

  17. hii..i've heard about jakhiya..its used in pahadi cuisine..that's what my MIL told me, she's garhwali..she says it tastes a bit like mustard seeds..but chayab is totally new to me..will ask her to get both the next time she visits me..

  18. This is a new spice for me too.

  19. never heard of these stuff ,nice post sra

  20. Really interesting and totally new to me too. Those airline people are so nosy! Just because they live in the midst of spice wonderland!!

  21. I had a similar experience when I went to Hong Kong for the first time. I had many masala powders with me (of course I put those in the check-in baggage). In HK when they opened the bags to examine those packets, the pungent smell irritated their noses and made them sneeze at once! That was hilarious. Of course they let me take those with me once they are satisfied that those aren't any drugs! LOL!

    I never saw these spices before. Looks great.

  22. Swati, I couldn't explore much, but loved what I saw of the vegetable stalls. I wasn't travelling that day, so didn't buy any.
    Lubna, they were okay, I over-salted them a bit, the jakhya lent a nice, light crunch.
    Opinionated, actually, it looks like big mustard at first sight but tastes nothing like it, that's what I observed
    Happy Cook, yeah, new to most of us, I think, even to me.
    Sagari, thank you.
    Mallika, guess they can't help it, what with all the problems around ...
    Uma, LOL! You would think people are more familiar with these things nowadays than 30 years ago!!! (when people started going abroad in large numbers, i mean)

  23. Looks great. I havent heard of the herb but I am sure it tasted great.

  24. i am really keen to taste them.

  25. this looks fantastic.. but more than that, you actually got it through the security :) I have to try to get this herb the next time I am in India!

  26. Hey..I remember these, bought and used them a long time ago, when I was living in Delhi.
    As far as I know, these are used in pahadi cooking:think uttaranchal & nepali cuisine.
    Here's one recipe that uses jakhiya:

  27. both are new to me. very nice way to use them:)

  28. My heart is always pounding at Customs :) I don't think I need to say more (lol)

  29. How exciting ... here is what I found

    BTW - Its raining at my blog, and thought I would send some showers your way! :-)

  30. Never heard of these spices, but you chose the right vegetable to cook with it, I think the potatoes make a great canvas for the spices in that picture.
    BTW, how come they didn't let you take the chili powder, is it because that can be used as a weapon? Was that the only spice in powder form?

  31. Homecooked, the herb was not so unusual to me but the jakhya was!
    Sia, come over!
    Mandira, I hope you find it easily, and manage to take it back!
    Delhibelle, you're right - I found them in an exhibition on indigenous crops of Uttarakhand.
    Sharmi, yeah, thought potatoes would be a good vehicle!
    Cynthia, I think I'll be in the same state from now on!
    Dibs, yeah, I've seen that site, I have one more of the ingredients mentioned there.
    Sig, yes, I think that's the reason. I also had garam masala and amchur but I guess they can't cause as much damage!

  32. I havent heard of this herb at all .. looks yumm

  33. How very interesting! Wonderful post Sra, have never heard of either herb ... you have really inspired me to go to Delhi on my next visit home. This is simply awesome!

  34. never heard of it. Thanks for sharing. It looks like a great combination with mustard oil & potato. How was the flavors of the spices? Anything we can relate to?

  35. wow Sra..never heard of those...aloo looks did it taste??

  36. Deesha, the seeds were more fun than the herb.
    Sheetal, welcome, thanks.
    Soma, the jakhya were light and crunchy, like the last bits of cornflake mixture we get in India. Yet to find words to describe the chayab.
    Valli, it tasted quite good, interesting, actually.

  37. You came all the way here and I didnt know??! serves me right for being away for a bit...!

    Just went to Dilli Haat on the weekend for the Dastkaar mela and it was quite amazing. Made a beeline for my favourite stall which sells 200 varieties of rajma. Ended up also buying a bunch of cinnamon leaves and some really pure haldi powder!

  38. That's a cozy bowl of spuds.

    There are many photos of cleome viscosa on Flickr. We call it Tickweed here, but I don't think that is quite accurate. It's a pretty little thing.

  39. just found your blog through foodie blog roll...very excited to spend some time reading. Chayab looks really interesting - I'm going to have to try find some. Btw would you mind if I linked to your blog and you do the same? Thanks!

  40. Hi,
    I'm a Garhwali & we use Jakhya in our food, esp. green leafy vegetables. YUMMY!!
    My granny sends us supplies cuz we can't find it in Bombay.
    Hope everyone enjoys it as much as we do...

  41. Hi I am from Uttrakhand and use both the spieces/herbs that you mention in this blog in my cooking. The dried leaves are from a himalayas fern. The little round seeds Jakhya are from wild mustard. Let me know if you need more information about them in Pahari cuisine.

  42. u must have already read in few comments above..jakhiya is a mustard like spice used to temper garhwali, about chayab..its also called jhikua or jamboo..its a tibetan mountain herb used to temper in nepali and kumaoni cuisine.

  43. It is a problematic weed grown during Kharif season in the foothills of Uttrakhand and its eradication/control becomes another question with the farmers.It is a good source of income besides a tasty &flavoured under-utilized and wild spice herb. GC Saini.

  44. Hi,
    Today I stumbled upon your blog. Really good one.
    Jakhiya is a pahadi spice and found at very few places. My mom uses it a lot and I love it. Basically found in Garhwal region. If you are trying more recipes, use it in daal, dry potato (as mentioned by you above), in poha, vermicelli etc. Basically it can be used as a much better substitute of "raai". Now, I only use raai in pickles. Rest all jakhiya.. :)

  45. Hi.. Jakhya taste great with Bhendi (Okra) and potatoes.. Heat oil, add the jakhya then add potatoes (raw or boiled), if raw let it cook, if boiled, stir for awhile and add Okra, haldi and little red chilly powder, salt to taste.. cook... You could avoid haldi and red chilly too and instead just add green chilly salt and cook on slow fire..