Why does every Indian household swear by the quintessential summer drink – buttermilk?
To begin with, it tastes good, is adaptable and a refreshing digestive drink for Indian summers. The Middle East has a version – it is called laban. In Turkey it has a different avatar, known as ayran.
A staple for many students: They live within their monthly allowance or “pocket money” as it is called in India, which comes with a standard instruction: “Save from this.”
Keeping this cost-effective existence in mind, the most important spend and save is - food. Left with little choice, one resorts to the dhaba or road-side eateries, usually set up in shacks. Some other day, we’ll do a whole bit on Indian dhaba cuisine – quite a character, indeed!
One popular drink in such low-cost eateries and for many people living on a budget or otherwise is the classic buttermilk. Students, office-goers, daily-wagers - this drink serves all.
For many, buttermilk is equivalent to a meal in the long-lasting Indian summers. Known as chaas in North India or Neer mor in the Southern part, this fermented yoghurt-based savoury drink can be prepared using as little as two ingredients.
For a spiced buttermilk, one can choose a regional tempering. Neer Mor is typically tempered with curry leaves, mustard seeds and some grated ginger, for that extra punch. To make the Eastern Indian version – mathha, add black salt and roasted cumin powder. For the non-spiced version, just add water and salt, it is good to go.
Where is buttermilk derived from?
Goes without saying, the fundamental ingredient is yoghurt, and buttermilk is a by-product of it. Traditionally, the leftover liquid in a churn, while making butter was called buttermilk. And that is how most villages in India still prepare it. However, the commonly prepared version uses yoghurt, water and salt.
Speaking to the Food by Gulf News team, Dubai-based nutritionist Shilpa Mundada, said: “One of the many benefits of drinking buttermilk is that it keeps illnesses at bay, as it is rich in good bacteria and probiotics and helps in reducing bad bacteria from flourishing in the gut.”
The swelter of Indian summers
Heat waves in India is an annual occurrence, with temperatures soaring to as high as 45 degrees in some cities during the summer. In Tiruchirapalli or Trichy, a city in Tamil Nadu, India, the civic body sets up buttermilk stalls across cities to keep its people hydrated. And for the ones, who cannot afford, there are free distribution centres as well. The average cost of a bottle of 200ml of buttermilk is around Rs10 (50 fils) and can go up to Rs100 (Dh5), making it the perfect summer drink for the poor and rich, alike.
“This popular salted summer drink acts as a coolant by maintaining the PH level in the stomach thus aiding digestion and enhancing immunity by synthesizing vitamins and nutrients. For people looking to lose weight, this go-to drink helps in weight management as they are low in calories but rich in protein,” added Mundada.
For people who might not be fond of this drink, because of its acquired taste, a little trick of adding it while kneading dough for bread or cooking dishes like potato curry or mixed vegetables will be beneficial too.
From earthen pots to glassware and tetra packages
In ancient times, buttermilk was served in earthen cups also known as Kulhad to enhance its cooling properties. Also, unlike today, there weren’t refrigerators or cooling devices in the past. Moving from which, chhas or neer mor became a common household drink, made of yoghurt and served with meals, usually in tall glasses. Next, with the advent of dairy industry came mass production of flavoured buttermilk in tetra packages.
Heard of the Kutchi beer trend?
You heard it right, a summer drink being served in beer bottles is taking social media by storm. Named after the district in the state of Gujarat - Kutch is either a wet or arid land, depending upon the season. It is famous for handicrafts, food and culture of the Kutchi community and has become a popular tourist destination. This district shares its geographical border with Mumbai, Maharasthra.
Food by Gulf News caught up with the Mumbai-based restaurant that introduced Kutchi beer, in the city. They explained why its called Kutchi or Kuchchi beer and how it became popular. "The name of the beverage is chaas and it is called Kuchchi beer because we serve it in beer bottles and since most of our customers are Kutchi they gave it the name."
This popular yoghurt drink is flavoured with salt, blackpepper powder and jeera (cumin) powder and costs Rs115 (Dh6.50) a bottle, at the popular food chain B Bhagat Tarachand, Mumbai.
Here is a recipe to try at home.
Preparation time: 5 minutes
1/2 cup of yoghurt
1/2 cup of cold water
Few ice cubes
4 or 5 mint leaves or goriander leaves - based on taste
1/4 tspn of ground black pepper (optional)
1/4 tspn of salt or rock salt (depending on taste)
Add all the ingredients into a blender, except the ice cubes. Give it a quick whiz around.
Take two glasses (ideal if they were placed in the fridge for a bit). Pour in equal measures of the buttermilk, add in ice cubes and you have a protein- and probiotic-based thirst quencher.
- Recipe by Anupa Kurian Murshed, Senior Digital Content Planning Editor at Gulf News
Do you have buttermilk recipes that you might like to share? Please do at firstname.lastname@example.org