A Bitter Brew?
Kashayam is a bitter brew made for the times.
COVID-19 has made me paranoid of sore throats. And I get a lot of sore throats. Every time I come down with a sore throat, I go through the stages of PARS (this is something I made up):
- Panic (because, I may have COVID!!!);
- Anticipation (as I await the rapid test result);
- Relief (when the test turns negative); and finally,
- Sore (because I am still left with the sore throat).
And once I get through these phases, my wife (Shruti) makes me a cup of Kashayam: one of the most bitter things you can taste and drink. And this is coming from someone who likes bitter vegetables:
Pan Dish: A Bitter Gourd? ♨️
Karelā or Bitter Gourd makes for a great vegetable that you can steam cook or pan fry.
But what I hate more than bitter tasting things … what I have immense disdain for: is a sore throat.
So, after the hemming and hawing, I sip the bitter kashaym and the relief is immediate! Anyone reading my blog knows that I like flirting with bitter tastes in my cooking. But COVID-19 made me respect this bitter drink that I describe in this post. I still do not like this bitter brew —I only respect it, because it works!
Quick note: This is my wife’s recipe and she usually makes kashayam, and not me. Today however, she was feeling down with a headache, so she asked me to make it. And as I was making it, I declared that I will blog about it —to which she reluctantly agreed, iff I make clear that this is her recipe and not mine. 🙂
The steps to prepare kashayam are super easy! Let’s start with the ingredients. But before we begin, a couple of disclaimers:
Kashayam is just a home remedy. And like with most home remedies, it is no substitute for a visit to the doctor. So visit the doctor if you have a sore throat.
Kashayam does not treat COVID-19, and you should check with a doctor if have a sore throat and any other COVID-19 symptoms. Just because your throat improves, it does not mean you are cured of any underlying diseases like COVID19. Continue testing, isolating if you have COVID-like symptoms and follow guidelines set by professional medical experts — I certainly do. And I am not medical expert of any kind.
You will need some:
- Water — 2 cups for every 1 cup of kashayam that you want to prepare. So if you want to brew one cup of kashayam, you need 2 cups of water.
- Turmeric — half a teaspoon (you will find this in any Indian grocery store). Turmeric is what gives kashayam its bitter taste.
- Black pepper — 1–3 teaspoons, more pepper makes the brew more spicy and soothes that sore throat.
- Tulsi Leaves (or holy basil) Powder — 1 teaspoon. Tulsi is well known in India to have medicinal value. Now, I am not a doctor or a medical professional of any kind: so do not take my word for it. Tulsi binds the whole brew together.
- Ajwain or Carom seeds — 1 teaspoon.
Once you have those ingredients in place, you can start the brew. That whole thing takes less than 10 mins.
Step 1: Heat the Ajwain/Carom seeds to a crackle
Throw in about 1 teaspoon of ajwain in a pot that you like to brew your tea in. We typically brew our teas in a stainless steel pot (see picture above). Turn up the heat on the ajwain and wait till it starts to crackle.
Step 2: Pour in the water and let it start boiling.
Easy enough … pour in the water as the ajwain starts to crackle. Feel free to turn up the heat to about medium high. You want the water to start boiling.
Step 3: Add turmeric, tulsi and black pepper to the water, and bring it to a boil.
Soon after adding the water to the pot, add the turmeric, tulsi and black pepper. This will let the spices boil with the water.
Now, wait for the water to come to a nice boil. Give the boiling mixture of water+spice a stir with a spoon — this will allow the spices to blend in well with the spices.
Step 4: Dial down the heat to a low, and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
Once the water+spice mix starts to boil, reduce the stove heat to a low, and let the whole brew simmer for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat, and pour the brew in a cup of your choice and gulp it down.
Optional Step 5: Use a strainer.
Now, you can use a tea strainer when pouring the kashayam into your cup (something I like to do) but my wife does not like it. Turns out that you want to retain as much of the loose spices you can, in the brew — again, something about the tulsi being medicinal. What do I know 🤷♂️.
The point is that if you believe in the medicinal upsides of all those spices, then you will not use the strainer; but if you are like me and do not like your brews to be grainy (even teas and coffees) then you will use the strainer.
My throat certainly feels a whole lot better after I gulp down a cup of kashayam. Its bitterness has still not grown on me — I do not think that it will. But given my disdain for sore throats (COVID or not) I am glad that kashayam exists. And I am glad that my wife taught me how to make this.