The following post is being republished as many of you could not access it earlier. Thank you for your patience!
As the weather cools down in our respective parts of the world, we see more mentions of Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) and everything Pumpkin Spice on our feeds. Pumpkin spice contains warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and the like and become omnipresent in foods during the fall/ autumn season. And while PSL phenomenon is less than a decade old, the concept of Tāseer تاثیر तासीर has always existed in Indian food wisdom.The spices in your Pumpkin Spice Latte is what we from the sub-continent consider as having garam taseer.
A lot of this wisdom relies heavily on Ayurveda and Unani lore. Our dadis and nanis (grandmas), may not have formal PhDs in food or nutrition sciences but are still considered experts in the matter of what to eat when. Traditional recipes, handed down generations are effective tools for transferring this knowledge. We have spoken about seasonality of foods in our podcast episodes and it is something closely related to the concept of Taseer.
What is Taseer?
Simply put, the Taseer of a food refers to its effect or disposition, in binary terms, as either cooling or warming. It is an Urdu word and we find it being used in this context in India and Pakistan. Going back to the mention of ‘Unani’ lore above, besides Ayurveda, Unani medicine too has also been popular in the Indian subcontinent. Interestingly, ‘Unan’ or ‘Unani’ is a word that refers to Greece in the Arabic language.
In his book ‘A Historical Companion to Indian Food’, food historian K.T. Achaya mentions that the hot-cold food theory was elaborately developed by the Indo-Aryans and integrated with the theory that ill-health was caused through humoural imbalance. This theory eventually travelled the world. Arabic translations of medical texts by Indian doctors reached Western Europe and were eventually absorbed by Green physicians. These teachings spread with 16th century colonial expansion. For example the Spaniards carried it with them to South America, Philippines and later all over south east Asia.
Garam and Thandi Taseer
According to this theory, cold and sweet foods have traditionally been preferred during warmer months, while hot foods like dried nuts and fruits, their confections and other richer foods have been the rule in cooler seasons. But even then, eating foods that clash with one’s “ingrained temperament” or metabolism or seasonal contra-indications can bring imbalances. In general, the recommendation is to practice moderation and eating seasonal food.
I must add that there is not too much scientific evidence of how much this theory holds ground now. So don’t follow anything you read on the internet or otherwise blindly. If you look closely most recipes use a combination of foods with thandi and garam taseer and thus don’t have adverse effects on your system.
Come fall and winter, our foods include more warming spices like turmeric, ginger cinnamon, nutmeg and the like. If I were to draw a parallel to PSLs, adrak wali chai or milky ginger tea comes to mind. It is a favourite in the Indian subcontinent as soon as monsoons start cooling our lands. This ginger tea continues to simmer in our kitchens till the cold winters to keep us protected against seasonal flus and colds.
Festive and Seasonal Snacking on Garam Taseer Foods
The change of weather at this time also signals the start of the festive season in India. And as a result, our snacks change too. We start including more dried nuts and seeds that have a warm disposition. Take gur chana for example, which uses roasted chickpeas with their skins and chunks of jaggery. Both Roasted Chickpea and Jaggery have a warm taseer. Til papdi, revdi and gajak, which are essentially desi versions of brittle or confections made with seeds of sesame and peanuts, also have garam taseer and are nutrient and calorie rich foods that do well in cold climes.
Besan Ladoos, our favourite homemade Diwali sweets are also a wonderful festive pick me up, in the North of India at least, where the cold is much harsher as compared to the South. Festive gifting also sees a lot of dry fruits and nuts passed around. They make for excellent gifts to stock for the upcoming winter season and we love to transform them into nut butters.
Momos with red pepper tomato chutney is another excellent dish for lovers of savory snacks. A fiery chutney with these Nepali dumplings are a favorite when the temperature plummets since chillies have garam taseer.
Tasty ways to tackle the flu with Garam Taseer beverages
Coming back to beverages, Hot Toddy is one of the most searched cocktail recipes on a blog at this time of the year. Our recipe uses a black tea with infused with spices of warm or garam taseer with a choice of your alcohol to keep you cosy. Mulled wine too uses cloves and more Christmasy flavors to warm you up. I know alcohol is hardly something you would find Ayurvedic texts mention good things about, but it does allow for it at an appropriate time and place. No wonder we enjoy drinks like Hot Toddies and Mulled Wines the most when the weather has cooled down.
A spicy lentil and tamarind soup, rasam is another south-Indian favorite that benefits from the use of ginger and garlic, both garam taseer foods, in tackling cold and flu. A cup of besan sheera or even runny besan halwa is a fantastic choice for these ailments. Our desi hot chocolate recipe uses spices and dried red chillies, inspired by Mexican versions of the drink and is also the perfect cold weather beverage.
Haldi Doodh ~ the all weather pick me up
But what about when you want an alcohol or caffeine free cuppa of something earthy and warming without having to wait for the seasons to change? The Haldi Doodh, also bastardised by the west as “Golden Milk”, is a simple spicy everyday milk based drink.
While Haldi or Turmeric has garam taseer, it is used in our preparations all year round. Turmeric in its dry powder form is a staple spice in our masala boxes or masaal-daan and is well known to have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin in Haldi is the magic component that makes this all happen. And while Haldi does have garam taseer, it is still used all year round, regardless of the weather.
The amount of Haldi used in preparations is little and still enough to reap its benefits. Adding extra Haldi to make the Haldi doodh resemble Pantone shade “Old Gold” is not the way here! Consuming too much Haldi or anything with warm taseer might affect your body adversely and cause digestive troubles. So its best to not reduce foods to their nutrition and use ingredients in moderation and based on traditional recipes. The key here is moderation and balance.
While Haldi is considered a warm food, milk is considered a cold food. So when you don’t overdo the haldi, the drink doesn’t have any adverse effects.
Here’s how you too can make Haldi Doodh
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes; Serves 2; Yields 2 cups
Ingredients for Haldi Doodh
- Whole or Skim Milk/ Doodh, 2 cups or approximately 480ml
- Powdered Turmeric or Haldi Powder, 1/2 teaspoon
- Cardamom powder or pods/ Elaichi, 1/8 teaspoon or 1 pod
- Black Pepper/ Kali Mirch, crushed, 1 pinch
- Optional Additions:
- Dried Ginger or Saunth powder, 1/8 teaspoon
- Cinnamon powder, 1/8 teaspoon
- Nutmeg powder, a pinch
- Sugar according to taste
A Quick Recipe for Haldi Doodh
Heat milk in a pan or in individual cups by microwaving. Once you see that the milk is steaming take the pan off heat. If using a microwave to heat the milk, usually 40 seconds to a minute should be enough time to heat the milk.
Add Haldi powder, a pinch of black pepper, cardamom powder and sugar if using. Add any optional spices you are using. Stir well and pour into cups. If the black pepper and cardamom you used is coarsely ground, then you may like to strain the haldi doodh using a strainer but its optional.
Serve Haldi Doodh warm as a nightcap or anytime you would like a cosy drink.
- Strainer Optional
- 2 cups Whole or Skim Milk/ Doodh approx 450-480ml
- 1/2 tsp Powdered Turmeric or Haldi Powder
- 1/8 tsp Cardamom powder or pods/ Elaichi or 1 pod, pounded/crushed
- 1 pinch Black Pepper/ Kali Mirch crushed
- 1/8 tsp Dried Ginger or Saunth powder Optional
- 1/8 tsp Cinnamon powder Optional
- 1 pinch Nutmeg/ Jaiphal powder Optional
- Sugar according to taste Optional
- Heat milk in a pan or in individual cups by microwaving. Once you see that the milk is steaming take the pan off heat. If using a microwave to heat the milk, usually 40 seconds to a minute should be enough time to heat the milk.
- Add Haldi powder, a pinch of black pepper, cardamom powder and sugar if using. Add any optional spices you are using. Stir well and pour into cups.
- If the black pepper and cardamom you used is coarsely ground, then you may like to strain the haldi doodh using a strainer but its optional.
- Serve Haldi Doodh warm as a nightcap or anytime you would like a cosy drink.