Remember as a kid, when you’d complain of indigestion or stomach ache and you would be immediately given a glass of Chaas, typically seasoned with salt and Hing (Asafoetida)? Indeed, we understood the concept of probiotics and prebiotics long before any published research!
Chaas (what’s also loosely called Buttermilk) or Chach, Majjige, Mor, Masala Ghol has natural anti-inflammatory, astringent and digestive properties. It activates the healthy gut bacteria and eases any stomach disorders.
Historic studies trace the possible origin of Yogurt far back to 5000 BC in Neolithic civilisation, around Central Asia. There also exist Ayurvedic texts dating back to 6000 BC, that highly advocate the benefits of naturally fermented dairy products, especially yogurt and its variants.
It is said that Yogurt, like cheese products, was probably accidentally invented when milk was exposed to bacteria and the rest is history!
And it isn’t the beverage of choice in India alone. During my trip to Turkey some summers ago, I tasted a popular beverage – Ayran, which instantly hit home in my palate. It’s a simple yet supremely refreshing drink, frothed to perfection, simply seasoned with salt and typically garnished with Mint.
Traditionally, Buttermilk was the leftover whey after churning butter. Before homogenisation of milk commenced, the ideal way to preserve milk was to let it sit, to allow the cream and milk to separate. The natural fermentation happened thanks to the lactic bacteria, which in turn would both make churning butter easy and also increase the shelf life. Intriguing right?
And another classic example of our age old culinary practices; ie, not wasting any by-product.
Oh! And did you know that the essential bacteria – Lactobacillus Delbrueckii, is our National Microbe?? Yep..
I could go on and on about the fascinating topic of ‘culture’ in different cultures; in fact you can read more about it in this article
Coming back to our summer elixir, my travels around the country have led me to sample several interesting variations of Chaas.
From the good old Chaas and Lassi in most of Northern India, the spicy Vaghareli Chaas from Gujarat, to Masala Ghol in the east to Mor/ Majjige in the South, the list is endless.
During my last trip to Hyderabad, a glass of chilled Menthi Majjiga was the perfect accompaniment to the spicy Biryani. Not only did it temper the dance of heat (both culinary and seasonal), it was a perfect digestive aid as well.
Not to forget the legendary ‘Neer-mor‘ of Tamil Nadu; one can find ‘Neer Mor Pandals‘ in the peak of summer that serve complimentary Chilled Buttermilk from an Earthen pot. It’s also an important preparation during Ramnavami and New Year.
Tangtur is another interesting variation traditionally prepared in Ladakh. It’s typically buttermilk made with fresh, crispy veggies, so ethereal and so rustic, it won me over.
So how are you enjoying your glass of Chaas this summer?
Oh and if you need some inspiration, do try this interesting recipe for Smoked/ Dhungar Chaas