Almost every part of South India has its own summer drink
Many homes in Kerala make their own Nannari
Jigarthanda is Madurais most favourite summer drink
One of Kozhikode’s busiest food and drink stalls typifies ‘hole in the wall establishment’. It’s easy to find him; just ask any local for the sherbet stall opposite Paragon, one of the city’s most emblematic food institutions. No seating, no signage (he doesn't have a name for the establishment) and not even enough glasses to cater to the never-ending lines of customers. His talent for making the perfect sherbet are only matched by his incredible skills to recycle glasses at breakneck speed. Kozhikode’s reputation as a juice and milkshakes destination is now legendary – the Sharjah shake (certainly not an Arab recipe) with generous quantities of dates and other dried fruits is one of the city’s most popular summer fixes. Almost every part of South India has its own ‘go to’ drink for the summer. Here’s highlighting a few summer drinks you must try.
1. Nannari Sherbet
Many homes in Kerala make their own Nannari (Ananthamool in Ayurveda and sometimes referred to as Indian Sarsaparilla) sherbet with Nannari roots. The syrup is crafted by boiling the roots with sugar, water and a hint of lime. It’s easy to find the syrup in many supermarkets especially during summer. Just stir the syrup with water and a dash of lime. The sherbet stall in Kozhikode also serves a version with milk while it’s also common to find versions with sabja (sweet basil seeds). The Nannari root is loaded with health benefits and anti-inflammatory properties.
Only last summer I was pleasantly surprised to discover a leading soft drink brand launch a Panakam variant. In many parts of South India this drink is traditionally associated with Sri Ram Navami that is usually celebrated in the beginning of summer. As kids, we made sure this summer quencher was available long after Sri Ram Navami. It’s very easy to make and very refreshing:
Add 50 gm of jaggery to 1 litre of water and let it dissolve.
Crush 3 cardamoms, ½ teaspoon of dried ginger and the juice of 1 lemon.
Serve cold or at room temperature. Garnish with mint leaves. (optional)
Every home has its own version of the quintessential summer cooler. In Tamil Nadu – neer more (or watery butter milk) is also a Sri Rama Navami special. My recipe involves ‘tempering’ mustard and curry leaves, then adding finely chopped green chillies (a very small quantity; don’t blend the green chillies) and ginger with a smidgen of asafoetida to a diluted butter milk. It is the perfect way to finish your breakfast on a summer day with all the cooling properties and the probiotic goodness of a glass of butter milk. But I prefer the version that is served in some parts of Kerala. Sambaram (their version of the buttermilk) also includes finely chopped onions in the mix that add a wonderful flavour.
Many years ago, I tried a ‘drinkable’ version of the traditional Ragi Ganji (porridge) in Chickmagalur in Karnataka. It’s still quite a common summer drink in the state. It’s quite like the koozhu (watery porridge) that is served in temples across Tamil Nadu. Quite a few stalls spring up in North Chennai during the summer and serve this nutritious and refreshing thick beverage. It’s quite a laborious process to make at home:
Blend 1 ½ cups of ragi and millet flour with water and leave overnight.
Cook 1 ½ cups of raw rice with extra water. Add the ragi/millet mixture to the rice once it’s cooked. Keep stirring till it becomes a thick paste.
Add water, a few teaspoons of curd, salt to taste and finally chopped onions before you serve at room temperature.
Fine dining restaurants like Dakshin and Raintree began serving this refreshing drink a couple of decades ago. I’m not entirely sure if this is a traditional recipe. It doesn't matter though. It’s a clever way to add a refreshing twist – just add a little honey and a dash of lime to your regular glass of tender coconut water.
Dessert or drink? Go figure. Madurai’s most favourite sweet dish is probably where a falooda and thick shake meet halfway. It contains hand-churned ice cream and condensed milk with tree gum. The Nawabs of Arcot were supposed to have brought the dessert to Madurai and now the Jigarthanda has travelled all over Tamil Nadu in newer, improvised avatars.
Ashwin Rajagopalan is a Chennai-based writer who writes on topics related to food, gadgets, trends and travel experiences. He enjoys communicating across cultures and borders in his weekday work avatar as a content and editorial consultant for a global major and one of India's only cross cultural trainers.
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