Chukku-malli kaapi is a traditional South Indian digestive elixir prepared using dried ginger & other spices, herbs and palm sugar. As Indian medicine recommends to take fresh ginger in an empty stomach in the morning & dried ginger before sleep, we take fresh ginger juice or ginger jam (lehium) before breakfast & dried ginger elixir after dinner to improve the digestion. The same elixir can be served in winter as a home remedy for common cough, cold & sore throat after being infused with relevant medicinal herbs & spices.
Traditionally it has also been given to babies every fortnight as it prevents regurgitation of milk. I remember seeing my grand mother forcibly feeding chukku kashayam to my cousins when they were babies using paladai (or sangu meaning a conch shell, got this name for its shape), an age-old infant feeding spoon, as babies can not bear its peppery taste. Paladai is useful to feed bitter or spicy medicinal potion as it helps to gulp the liquid down without sensing its taste. For toddlers or kids we can use any other spoon.
My grandma used to say “Virundhum marunthum moondru naal”, meaning whether you are enjoying a feast or taking a medicine, it should be limited to 3 days only. This medicinal elixir can be taken for 3 consecutive days or until you notice a significant improvement. Ironically, I have met with the people who can not fall asleep if they don’t drink chukku kaapi. When I got married I was surprised to see relatives & friends of my parents-in-law turning up without notice and was amazed by mother-in-law’s hospitality. She used to keep serving food to all of us every 2-3 hours till 9 pm and of course she had a cook to assist with. (Still at the age of 75 she likes to try new recipes, you can find her latest recipe here that she learned from a cookery show.) On any day her last preparation in the kitchen would be a spiced elixir that she served with milk specially for her grandchildren. We were all playing cards or carrom with renewed energy while sipping chukku-malli kaapi late in the night. This recipe reminds me of those beautiful moments when we rendezvoused with our extended family.
Here is the recipe for traditional south Indian chukku-malli kaapi :
Time taken: 15-20 min
Yields : 500 ml
Serving: 100 to 150 ml for adults, 15 ml for infants
- Dried ginger – 1″ piece
- Coriander seeds – 1 tsp
- Peppercorns – ½ tsp
- Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
- Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
- Palm jaggery (or palm sugar) – as required
- Water – 1 Litre
- Grind dried ginger, coriander & pepper into a coarse powder.
- Toast cumin seeds in a hot pan until the aroma is released.
- Add spice powder, roasted cumin, turmeric powder & water into a sauce pan and bring it to a boil.
- Add palm jaggery while boiling.
- When jaggery is dissolved into the solution, simmer until it is reduced to half.
- Remove from heat and pour through a fine mesh.
- Serve warm with or without milk.
Tips & Tweaks:
- If you are preparing this mainly for digestion, you can add betel leaves (paan leaves) while boiling; please beware that adding too many leaves lead to strong unpleasant flavor, so for every litre of water (not decoction) one medium-sized betel leaf is sufficient. If you are using chopped leaves, you may have to reduce further.
- If you are preparing for common cold, you can add few tulsi (holy basil leaves) and/or thoothuvalai (Solanum trilobatum) leaves.
- You may replace palm jaggery with any available sweetener, if you are using honey, you can mix honey before serving when lukewarm.
- Pepper & turmeric is a remarkable pair that we can’t leave either of them.
- It is not recommended to prepare chuuku kaapi powder in large quantities and store them for longer use; you can prepare this powder such that it is used within 3 or 5 days but you can refrigerate elixir for 1 week.