The famous Black Rice of Manipur is unique in its colour, taste and aroma and the sticky rice variety called Chakhao Amubi is indigenous to Manipur. ‘Chakho’ means delicious while ‘Ambui’ means black. Chakhao, a scented glutinous rice has been in cultivation in Manipur for centuries and is characterized by its special fragrance. It is believed that the cultivation of black rice started when the earliest people settled in Manipur. The grain is harvested using organic methods in the hills of Manipur with the absence of pesticide and chemical fertilizers and limited use of water.
Though little information is available on the origin of this famous black rice, it is believed that it was commonly called as the forbidden rice in Imperial China and reserved exclusively for the Chinese Emperor because of its high nutritional value.
The two great qualities of Chakhao are their distinctive deep purple colouring and smell making it an extremely desirable specialty rice and it is a little wonder that this tasty black rice was awarded the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) earlier in 2020.
Chakhao has also been used by traditional medical practitioners as the rice has several healing and nutritional properties. The rice is a source of iron, vitamin E and antioxidants. The bran hull (outermost layer) of black rice contains one of the highest levels of anthocyanins found in food. The grain has a similar amount of fibre to brown rice with a pleasant nutty taste. It has anti-carcinogenic properties and its bran soothes inflammation due to allergies, asthma and other diseases.
Chakhao has a deep black colour and usually turns purple when cooked. Its dark purple colour is primarily a product of its anthocyanin content which is higher by weight than that of other coloured grains. The texture of black rice is a bit heavier as compared to other varieties of rice but its natural flavour is rich and sweet.
Chakhao kheer is a popular pudding in these regions and the water in which the black rice is boiled is used to wash one’s hair as it is believed to make the roots strong.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)