I must admit I was no fan of this drink a couple of years back. It was the classic case of gharki murgi daal barabar. I mean doodh-halad (milk-turmeric) concoction was always given to you when you had a nagging cough which took time to settle. In it’s pure pristine avataar, one gulped in down before going off to sleep..And yes, there would be no talking after you had drunk this kadha, of sorts.
But when you are holed up in a foreign land, and cough has made it’s yearly visit, you have to whip out the traditional Indian wisdom, passed down from generations, to keep you going. And to avoid going to a doctor in a strange city. That’s how I ended up with the spicy, comforting version of turmeric latte. Yeah, a fancy-pants name to our very own halad-doodh.
It didn’t start out spicy. I had been having plain milk and turmeric for almost a week, and the cough wasn’t showing any signs of going away. Some googling later, I discovered some great additions that go well with turmeric. Ginger, and cardamom. Now milk, sugar and cardamom are a classic combination. But somehow I was not very keen on sweetened turmeric milk at first. So I left out the sugar. Then I realised, while ginger gave it a warm after taste, the cardamom flavour stayed in the background. So in went some honey, after the milk and spices had boiled. And the effect was striking. Since honey soothes an irritated throat like no other, this became a permanent fixture.
I discovered cinnamon, only after the foray into baking. The smell wafting up from the stove top where cinnamon has been added to water and apples was heavenly. I have since then sneaked cinnamon into everything, just to inhale the fragrant vapours. So cinnamon was added to the doodh-halad brew. Then I grew bolder. Why not nutmeg and cloves? What had I to lose? And yes, a pinch of black pepper (which helps turmeric absorption) and reminds you of rasam or masala chai. I would roughly powder all these in a wooden mortal pestle, and strain the milk before drinking, slurp, slurp…
And then I spotted fresh turmeric at Yongchun market. I bought some home, and the brewing continued with fresh ginger and turmeric, for that strong taste on rainy days. Some more experimentation led to adding dates (khajoor not kharik) and some finely chopped almonds to the pot. All these additions, according to Ayurvedic texts, make it ojas enhancing (the positive essence of the kapha dosha – the other two being prana and tejas corresponding to vaata and pitta. Wow, I didn’t know that before!) Somewhere down the line, I started with half milk-half water mixture, and boiled it enough to simmer and thicken for a while.
Drinking halad-doodh was becoming a permanent fixture. Not so much in summers, but come winter, I was all up for it. Since it rained often here in Taipei, evenings were generally cooler. Coming back home after Chinese class on Mondays, and deciding to skip dinner, I would make my favourite drink. Slowly it became a regular fixture on Thursdays as well, after the evening yoga class, when it was too late to have dinner by Taipei standards.
This is the recipe which has evolved since, and which I now use:
Bring one cup of milk and one cup water to a boil. Add fresh turmeric, and fresh ginger (depending on how you like it, a small piece will do). If you are using powders, one tsp of each will nicely do. Roughly crush two cardamoms, a small stick of cinnamon, two-three black peppers, one clove, and add it to the pot. If you like it (and are using ginger-turmeric powders), almond powder (or crushed almonds) as well as soft dates (a couple or more) can be added as well. Reduce the boiling mixture to a half, strain if using fresh turmeric and ginger. After it has cooled down a bit, add honey to sweeten. Remember never to cook the honey (it becomes toxic), so it should be added only after the heat has turned off, and liquid has cooled a bit. You can add some cow ghee too, if interested, or coconut flakes, or both. It tastes yummy!
Pour a cuppa, and enjoy madi!
Have you ever tried yet? If not, go ahead and make some, this winter.