When Jagabondhu came home hungry, he asked his sister Subhadra to feed him. The loving sister was however a bad cook. She did not know what or how to cook. In her excitement to serve her beloved brother, she cooked the rice and the lentils together. And that is how the recipe of khechri originated.
This is the story that my mother told me when I was a kid asking why khechri is a special item during kang season. My mother comes up with such fantabulous stories when dealing with children that I still am not sure if this was her story to satisfy the curiosity of an inquisitive child or whether it was a story that was commonly told. Be it as it were, it seems a plausible story for the khechri is a dish served specially in the season of kang (rathyatra) and its main ingredients are rice and lentils cooked together. During the season of kang, the temples cook it every evening as part of its meal offerings. Groups of friends also gather together to have khechri parties. And those who do not want to go into all the trouble of cooking seek out friends whose families are closely associated with small temples.
The Manipuri khechri is cooked slightly different from the khechri known in other parts of India. It is not cooked in the thick porridge form. For reference to the recipe for khechri and ooti, here are some of the links
khechri & ooti: http://www.mydiversekitchen.com/2008/06/manpuri-khichdi-and-ooti.html
The flavour is the season is not complete in itself. It is accompanied with at least five items – ooti, ngou-thong, green chilly pickled in mustard paste, boiled vegetable, stir fry vegetable. Ooti is a dish in which the chief ingredient is soda. There are different kinds of ooti. It can be prepared with a base of peas (mangan), split black gram (sagolhawai) or ash gourd (torbot). During the summer months, it is the preparation of dried peas cooked with tender bamboo shoots that is the season’s speciality. This is flavoured with chinese chives (maroi nakuppi) and hooker chives (maroi napakpi) deep fried in oil, preferably mustard oil. It is garnished with coriander leaves.
For the final touch, it is served on the big broad leaves of the lotus. The fragrance of the lotus leaves add to the flavour of the dish being served. Kang gi khechri is never complete on a shiny steel plate or a classy porcelain plate but on the big fresh green leaves of the lotus. The leaves add the trademark signature of the season.
An array of the seasonal vegetables and different varieties of bamboo shoot being sold in the local market can be seen in the first photograph. It is the bigger ones that are used to cook ooti dish. picture courtsey: Maisnam Mangijao
The second picture is an assemblage of the herbs used as flavouring agents. Nira grass or chinese chives or garlic chives is the main flavouring agent for khechri. picture courtsey: Maisnam Mangijao
The third picture is a common sight during the season of kang. Lotus and lilies of different kinds can be seen growing in lakes and ponds in Manipur.