Elsewhere in this site’s home page under the title ‘Curry crisis – A Tip of the Iceberg’, you may have come across the issue of ‘Mulligatawny’ (sic).
We have also seen that the word ‘Mulligatawny’ (sic) refers to two Tamil words together Black Pepper (Milaku) and Water (Thannee(r)) which is in fact ‘black pepper water’ or soup. (Remember: Gripe water!)
When the Europeans came across the habitats of the Tamils, western medicine was not developed well and so they depended on the local herbal or ancient medical practices. The Mulligatawny’ (sic) (Correct: Milaku-Thanee(r)) was the perfect remedy for their minor ailments such as digestion issues, heartburn, etc.
However the imitations we see nowadays in western supermarkets is hardly recognisable and incomparable to the authentic Mulligatawny.
Those who market these are a $25b mega business and a celebrity chef. This is the tip of the iceberg of the crisis the curry industry faces now. Curry industry can’t survive without addressing authenticity issues like these. These authenticity issues are referred to in the media as the ‘Curry Crisis’.
Let us now look into another important drink of the Tamils which has become popular now because of the health benefits. As you may have figured out now the correct name should be Neecha-Thanee(r).
Leftover cooked rice mainly rice with bran is immersed in buttermilk (diluted yogurt) and is soaked overnight. The next day, onion, green chili, salt, and lime pickle are added to it.
The fermenting process along with the diluted yogurt will help healthy bacteria grow further in the old cooked rice and all will give the drinkers an added benefit. Back in the day, this dish would be eaten by the poorer members of the community so that they could obtain the required sustenance at a low cost.
If you wish to try this, you definitely won’t be disappointed as it mixes textures and flavours together to give you a a refreshing taste.
Neecha-Thanee(r) is an ancient drink of the Tamils but just 500 years ago, with the arrival of the Portuguese and the chili, black pepper that used to be added was replaced by chilis instead.
The benefits of this drink is attributed to the added healthy bacteria or probiotics in the yogurt, have a look at the newspaper article below to find out more. Due to its health benefits, this has become very popular on supermarket shelves and in some restaurants. One particular US biotech company now bottles and sells 250ml of Neechatawny for $29.99! Expensive indeed, for a very simple recipe that can be prepared simply at home.
Among the Tamils, Neecha-Thanee(r) is known by various names too: Neerakaram, Pazham (old) Congee, Pazhaya satham, morakaram, just to name a few.
We will share the recipe of this fantastic nectar soon.
Further, in a forthcoming post, we will look into Tamils and their ancient and contemporary fermentation techniques within their food culture.