Sunday, November 15, 2009

Xewali / Shewali : Edible flower in Assamese cuisine (Night Flowering Jasmine)

Xewali phool or the Night-flowering Jasmine (scientific name:Nyctanthes arbor-tristis) is used widely in Assamese cuisine not only because of it's availability but also because of it's various medicinal properties. Assamese cuisine is fascinating to me because of it's inclusion of various herbs and greens-some of which are unique in characteristic.

In this post i am focusing the use of this flower which highlights the folk medicine culture in our food habits ....if somebody is interested an expert advice is suggested.Like many traditional Assamese household we too have this small tree or shrub right in front of our house.
The flower contains five to eight petals and a bright reddish orange centre,it is highly fragrant,if you pick the flowers your hands smell good for a very long time.One interesting fact about them is that they bloom only at night time as you can see here in these pictures.I took two shots one at day time where you can see many buds and another at night when you can clearly see the blooms.As soon as the first rays of sunlight hit them they fall ,it is a beautiful sight when you see a lovely and sweet smelling white carpet of Khewali-phool first thing in the is always rush hour for me at that time so could not manage one picture of the same.My mom-in-law and my kids collect the fallen flowers in a plate , some of which are offered to God later and most of it goes straight to the kitchen.Unlike other flowers this flower can be offered to God even if they are collected from the earth(or are fallen ).
One very interesting mythological story is attached to it...Lord Krishna brought this heavenly flower to earth ,now both of his wives Rukmini and Satyabhama wanted it to be planted at their own courtyard.Krishna solved the tiff between the two by strategically planting it at Satyabhama's courtyard so that the flowers always fell on Rukmini's courtyard.Now coming to its medicinal properties... many believe that it is a very safe de toxifying agent ,we also use decotation of its leaves for low grade fevers and body aches,many use the paste of leaves to the skin as it is believed to help in certain skin conditions.Pramathesh informed me that it is consumed empty stomach in the morning as an anti malarial agent.It is also used as a very safe purgative for kids and helps in relieving dry cough,faintness .I love it because of its unique flavour and can compare it very little to the flavor of Jasmine tea.
I admit that when for the very first time it was served to me i was scared to try it out but others assured me that i need not fear and must try it...and i did.I love it for its unique flavour and is prepared in various ways as i am a vegetarian i like this RICE-VERSION...where flowers are added to pre-cooked rice and fried together ,very less oil and no other spices except for turmeric and salt is used here to preserve its aroma and flavor.Assamese food is served in courses,so it is always served first because of its slight bitter taste,it is also termed as TEETA-BHAAT(bitter-rice) .Another very popular variation is FISH CURRY by adding these flowers ...loved by my kids and other family members.

A special thanks to Pramathesh and his friends from the office who helped me know the scientific name of this flower.


  1. Well I learned something new today. Not sure I would like to try it, but it sounds different. Our one daughter is vegetarian, I'll tell her about it.

    Thanks for your visits and comments.

  2. This is really, really interesting, Kavita. We have pikake (Jasmine) flowers all over the place in Hawaii. Someone told me it's the national flower of the Philippines as well. We make leis with it. I love the smell! I think many people plant it because it is such a hardy plant. I would never have thought to eat it even though I've had jasmine tea. Thank you for this very informative and interesting post.

  3. Wow.. that is interesting! I didn't know that the flowers can be used to make special dishes!

    Thanks for sharing yet another nice post Kavitha!

  4. fascinating, I didn't know jasmine bloomed at night. I love it's smell, so distinct. Never knew of its medicinal qualities or gourmet dish possibilities. thanks for new education...

  5. hmm, Kay, I didn't know pikake is jasmine. I wore pikake lei to my daughter's wedding, and her mother-in-law did, too. David and I also wore it on OUR wedding day.

    As for jasmine in rice, Kavita, that is an interesting concept. I probably would prefer it in fish curry, though. I love curry!

  6. Hmmm... Good One!
    I did not know many of the facts that You told us in this post. Thanks!!!!

  7. Such an interesting post, Kavita!
    I so enjoyed it!
    Thank you for sharing my friend!

    Wishing you a most joyful day!


  8. We call this flower 'paarijaatha'. We have got a small tree at home and like you said, pick it up from the floor and offer to our gods.

    When I was small, I remember my grandmother using many types of flowers like hibiscus, white and red, rose and many types of leaves/plants from our own garden. I don't remember if she used this flower.

    In Udupi every house will have this tree - Udupi is famous for the temple of Krishna - this is Krishna's flower!

  9. Kavita asked me to convey this message to her friends. She is having some technical problems. She will get back as soon as it is solved.

    Thank You.

  10. Bengalis call this flower 'Shiuli' and this has a special significance to us.
    This flower starts blooming in autumn. Autumn is also the time we celebrate the Durga Puja, so the moment the first flower blooms, we know that Puja is almost at our doorstep.
    Did not know about the medicinal qualities of the flower.

  11. Thats really informative. Thanks :)

  12. Didn't know that this was edible. Is it the same as Raat ki rani flower? Love this blog for being informative with pics and all. Keep it up

  13. Kavita,
    Yet an another well familiar thing on your blog. I remember them blooming just around Durga Puja. Every morning I got up early to see these tiny flowers carpetted undernesth the tree. Am I right
    ? Great to know so much of things in detail. Did you see that picture of mine, of that citrus fruit tree? I placed a link in your comment section of that photo in my picasa web album.

  14. Where we grew up, we used to call is Shiuli phool or shefali phool. we had a tree in our house and every morning we as kids used to collect that flower in the flower basket (shaji)
    sweet memories. But never occured to us that we could eat those!!

  15. Thank you for sharing to us, that is new to me. I like that flower.

  16. I have never seen a flower that blooms only at night. I wish I could smell its beauty!

    I like how you take the first blossoms to offer to God later. A wonderful way to give thanks.

  17. Dear Kavita
    I just read your comment on my last post and I came by to thank you so much!
    Your comment touched my heart so much!
    That you want to read my poem to your children when they are older and can understand the meaning of my poem meant so much to me!

    Hugs to you my dear friend!


  18. Patty...thanks Patty,i know about your vegetarian daughter,you always mention her in your mails,i hope she finds the information interesting.Because of connectivity problems even though i visit you daily i sometimes don't comment,but i had to comment that day because your post was too hilariooooous !

    @KAY....Thanks a lot .I have seen few series on Hawaii on Discovery where they show Pikake Flowers...if you have one i would like to see a picture of yours wearing lei in MUSINGS.

    @MOHAN...Thank you Mohan,your comments always inspire me to look for new things.

    @LIN..Thank you.I just helped my son collecting flowers and my hands still smell so good.Before i got married truly speaking i never knew so much about this flower.

    GIGI...Thanks.I enjoy this cultural exchange a lot,i feel it is the best thing about blogger.I knew the great chef in you would love to know about this,when i was preparing the rice i had you in mind because i always see you prepare that great looking chowmein and baked salmon and so many other things.

  19. @MARGIE..thanks a lot.i am glad you liked the post.About your poem is one of the best i read on motherhood.I really would love to read it to my kids when they are ready to understand.i still remember the poem you wrote on your son.

    @PRAMATHESH...thanks brother,i rely on you for more information i need for my posts.Thanks for pointing out the SPELLING know i still pronounce few words with a north-Indian touch.So know it is HEAWALI not KHEWALI.

    @SANDHYA..Thanks.It is called Parijata in many regions of our country ,but here in Assam we have a totally different flower named Parijata(a different one not this Jasmine),so to avoid confusion i did not mention it here.I am glad you mentioned it and i am sure you are aware of that interesting story about Princess Parijata attached to it.

  20. @APARNA...Thanks.One more thanks for the information you gave,because you pointed out now i do remember collecting these flowers right at the time of PUJO this year and we carried few dried flowers to Shillong too.

    @ZB..Thank you ZB.

    @HOLY LAMA..Thanks a lot for your kind words i am glad you find our blog interesting.Please keep visiting.

    @NISHANT NISCHAL..Thanks Nishant.Sorry ,i am yet to check out that link because of so many things,so know i got my broadband connection i will surely do and visit your page too.Because we are from the same region you are going to find many familiar stuff .

    SUMANDEBRAY....Thanks Suman.Sweet memories..oh, how wonderful !Before writing this i did a little home-work ,you are right Bengalis don't eat this flower but the Bengalis settled out here do...many families eat it without mixing it with the rice or fish.

    @HALF INDIAN...hello Dave's dad,i am glad you liked the post.You have got a very cute looking son,i checked out your blog and left a comment too.Do keep visiting and encouraging us.

    @CLYTIE..Thank you .I love your comments ,i admire your interest in our culture.Thanks once again.

    @MARGIE...Thanks for your revisit.Your poems are always beautiful, the poem you gifted on my son's birthday is one of the best gift he ever received .T hanks for being such a wonderful friend.

  21. Thats interesting . Looking forward to taste it .

  22. Wow!! That's some informative post!! Mythology to medicinal uses to usage in food and good for skin too...all from a beautiful flower!!
    Very interesting!! Thanks for sharing this with us!! :)

    PS : You must remove this word verification in the comment it is of not any use and is infact a pain! :)

  23. Very interesting kavi,i have this tree in my house but never knew about the flowers thats they are edible and can be used for malaria and other treatments.I love the fragrance.

    I was a bit busy with pinkuda.Thanx

  24. Like all the bengalis have said before me, we call thios the shiuli phool, and when it blooms we know that durga pujo is round the corner. so a definite special significance. I also vaguely recollect that my granny used the leaves of this tree in a recipe, they were slightly bitter in taste.

  25. Mereko yuhin thankyou mat boliyo. Main bigar jaoonga.

  26. Must try out this (especially the fish curry)

  27. @BHAVYA...thanks a lot.

    @SHILPA...Thanks a lot.I just removed word verification ,it was there to keep Viagra-selling people off from commenting(spam).

    @SUJATA...thanks.One of my very close Bengali friend deep fries the leaves after coating it with besan(bhaja).

    @VARUNAVI...Thanks,it is consumed in a little quantity just as a medicine,we even eat NEEM LEAVES after roasting it in a wok with very little oil but FEW VARITIES OF NEEM LEAVES ARE POISONOUS ,gotta be very careful before consuming.


    @HADDOCK..Thanks,i tried this flower yesterday with fish head curry and they tell me it was very good.

  28. Interesting! Well, I remember a similar flower that blooms at night in my native ... not sure if both are same. Hmmm but bitter? Well, I like karela in mild quantities , so i shud like this too...

  29. I can always count on you to share something new and interesting. This is so informative. I'm very glad I don't have to try to pronounce the first several words before "an edible flower". I'd surely fail that test. Hahahaaa

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  32. Wonderful post, full of information: you described so well and the photographs are so beautiful
    I want to eat this immediately!

  33. @LAXMIRAJAN...thank you.Welcome to our blog.If you like Karela ,you are going to love this one too.

    @DELLGIRL...Thanks.Haaaa,hey after fourteen years of marriage even i have tough time pronouncing it,at first i wrote the wrong spelling and was later corrected by a bad i have to pronounce it ..there is no escape for me.



    AMATAMARI..Thanks.Please be my guest.

  34. Very informative post. Although I was born and brought up in Assam, I was not aware of all these details.

  35. wow!! I had no clue--now I have to play with the flowers n see what to cook with it! Loved this post...have to tell my Mom too--she will be so happy. She adores this flower