Khatta is an Indian condiment that is generally served as an accompaniment to khichdi (coral lentil basmati rice). Unlike raita (Indian yogurt sauce) or chutneys, khatta has a thin consistency. Toasted sesame seeds are ground into a thick paste (tahini) and mixed with green chiles and tamarind. The sauce is then diluted with water and mixed with thinly sliced onions. The finishing touch is the usual top layer of baghar, which consists of fried garlic, cumin seeds, curry leaves and dried chiles.
The recipe was provided by Lulu's aunt, Sheerin Auntie, who is an amazing, gifted cook. Love is the most important ingredient that is required in any dish, and she has it in boundless quantities. She has agreed to teach me several Indian dishes that I've been wanting to learn, and of course, I'll share them with you once I know them well. Thank you, Sheerin Auntie for teaching me so many valuable lessons, culinary and otherwise.
Servings: 8 servings
5 tablespoons sesame seeds
6 cloves garlic, cut into thirds
3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped, to taste
4 green Thai bird chiles, stemmed and chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, slightly toasted
5 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
, or more, to taste
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
6 fresh curry leaves, cut into thirds
½ teaspoon salt
6 dried red chiles, stemmed
Dry toasting the sesame seeds:
To enhance the flavors, dry toast the sesame seeds in a pan over medium heat for about 1-2 minutes, before the ingredients start changing color. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool completely.
Making sesame paste:
Grind the sesame seeds in a blender or a grinder (I use a coffee grinder that I keep exclusively for spices). The sesame seeds should turn into a fine mill, but make sure you stop before it becomes nut butter.
In a mini-blender (you could use a mortar and pestle but it takes much longer), combine the sesame paste, 4 cloves of garlic, ½ teaspoon of cumin seeds, mint and the green chiles. Add ¼ to ½ cup water for a smooth flow. Transfer to a bowl. Add the tamarind concentrate, more water (about 1-½ cups), red chili powder and the sliced onions. Adjust seasoning (see tips). Season with salt. Add more chopped mint if you like.
This step is called baghar: When you're ready to serve, heat the canola oil in a small saucepan, add the remaining garlic, the whole dried red chiles and the rest of the cumin seeds. Cook in the hot oil; the garlic will darken. Add the curry leaves; the oil will start splattering. Remove from the heat and immediately transfer to the khatta. Cover with a lid (I used a plate to preserve the nice fragrance).
Serve at room temperature with khichdi, which is basmati rice with masoor dal (coral lentils).
You can find tamarind concentrate in any Asian store. It has a nice, tart flavor.
You can find the rest of the ingredients in most Indian stores.
The quantity of green chiles varies with the level of heat. Make sure to test the spiciness of the chiles by biting a piece. When adjusting the flavors of the sauce, you might want to add more tamarind concentrate and freshly grated jaggery (palm sugar) to balance the spiciness if necessary.
Baghar is a very common step toward the end of cooking in many Indian dishes. I use a small 0.3-quart saucepan that I use exclusively for baghar.