Think Holi, and bhang and thandai are sure to cross your mind. Prepared with a generous blend of aromatic spices like saunf, pepper, cardamom with khus khus and almonds in creamy milk and sugar, a tall glass of thandai is mandatory on the festival of Holi. To get that baffling kick, true revellers guzzle thandai laced with bhang, which is also prophylactic.
The sacred inebriant is a strong concoction which includes mysterious ingredients like buds and leaves of the heady and otherwise banned Cannabis plant. Found in the Himalayas, hemp (a type of Cannabis) is considered to be one of the sacred plants in the Vedas.
Rampant in the north of India, the ghats of Varanasi or Benares is the hub of bhang as it is the place of Lord Shiva who is known to have discovered the sublime and exalted properties of cannabis leaves and buds. The buds and leaves of Cannabis are ground into a puree or pulp, with the help of a mortar and pestle. Spices, milk and clarified butter (ghee) are mixed in this green paste. Bhang ‘golees’ are prepared using pepper powder, ghee and sugar. Contemporary use sees bhang feature in kulfis, laddoos, pakora, chutney, pedas and have even been incorporated in western desserts like cakes, brownies, chocolates, macarons or cheesecake.
With the shift in season, as temperature soars, Ayurveda recommends foods which help immunise us against the adverse effects of the seasonal changes. The name Thandai itself suggests it is a coolant. While black pepper helps keep the body warm to combat the last leg of winter, the cooling fennel seeds pep you up for the imminent rise in mercury. The medicinal values of hemp plant hastens the digestive tract, increases appetite, cures lisping (speech flaw), and clears phlegm. Enlivens the intellect, and brings exuberance to the mind.
Medically, use of leaves of cannabis plants in medicines to treat multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease have proved to be effective. Ayurveda also includes it in many of its medications as aphrodisiac or to treat insomnia. It is alright to use it for a short period as treatment but never for a recreational purpose. If consumed mindfully, bhang has its health benefits:
Payal Kothari, The Gut Health nutritionist and Life Wellness coach explains, “Bhang thandai contains anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help to reduce inflammation in the body. This can be useful for people who suffer from conditions such as inflammation of the gut, arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.”
“It has calmative properties thereby aids in easing restlessness, apprehension or trepidation,” says Bhopal-based Nutritionist Vani Raghuvanshi. When incorporated in thandai, it is believed to lighten and alleviate the tired body and wayward mind, post a wild and boisterous day of colour splashing.
Analgesic properties of bhang thandai helps in relieving pains like migraines, spasms, reduces PMS and menstrual cramps.
It is helpful for those with medical conditions as it stimulates appetite and enhances taste.
“Acts as an antacid, reduces bloating or flatulence but should be taken in moderation,” says Vani Raghuvanshi.
Dermatologist Indrakumar Roy reveals, “Bhang paste applied locally to atopic dermatitis relieves itching and pain. It is effective on chapped skin.”
“It's important to note that bhang thandai should be consumed in moderation, as excessive consumption can lead to negative effects such as dizziness, nausea, and hallucinations. Additionally, it is illegal in many states and can have legal consequences. Therefore, it should be consumed only in areas where it is legal and with caution,” warns Payal Kothari.
Excess use of bhang can lead to serious health problems.
Mixing bhang with alcohol or any other intoxicant is a ‘BIG NO’.
It can cause psychosis for those suffering from heart problems, high BP or nervous disease.
Never consume it on empty stomach. Lace your tummy with snacks before having bhang.
Using it as an intoxicant can have serious complications. It affects hormones, lowers immunity, and sperm count in men.
Bhang Ki Chutney With Paneer
Ingredients: 3 tbsp Hemp seeds, ¼ tsp Jeera, 1 Lemon, Salt as per taste, 1 Red Chilli, Fried Paneer Cubes
Method: Toast bhang and jeera individually. Grind the ingredients (barring paneer) along with red chilli into a fine paste. Add little water while grinding. Squeeze lemon juice, salt and serve with aneer cubes.
(Recipe by the writer)
Thandai And Gulkand Shrikhand
Ingredients : 1½ cup Hung Curd, 2 tbsp Gulkand, preferably prepared at home, 1 tbsp Milk, 2 tsp Buchanania lanzan seeds (Charoli seeds/ Chironji seeds), blanched, Few strands of saffron steeped in a little warm milk
For Thandai Mix Powder (Home-prepared) Blend into a powder:
Ingredients: 4 Almonds, 4 Cashew nuts, Few strands of Saffron, ¼ th tbsp Fennel seeds, ¼ th tbsp Poppy seeds, 4 Peppercorns, black, A pinch of Cinnamon powder, ½ tsp Green Cardamom powder, ¼ th tbsp Mixed Melon seeds, 2 tsp Edible and Dried Rose petals
For garnish: ¼ th gm Saffron strands, 10 gm Almonds, roughly chopped, 10 gm Pistachio nuts, roughly chopped, 1 tsp Rose petals (dried and edible)
Optional: 1 small sheet Silver leaf (Chandi Ka Varq)
Method: In a food processor, add hung curd and gulkand. Blend it for 20 seconds. Add the thandai spice mix powder. Blend it till it becomes smooth. Add milk to adjust consistency. Remove in a glass bowl. Add charoli seeds, saffron steeped in warm milk and mix well. Chill the shrikhand covered with a cling wrap in the refrigerator for two hours.
To serve: Serve chilled laced with saffron strands and chandi ka varq, garnished with nuts and dried edible rose petals.
Chef’s Tips: Instead of a food processor, you may simply whisk the ingredients till well-blended.
Add cold milk if required – that if the hung curd is too thick.
Add grated nutmeg, cloves and pistachio nuts in the thandai mix powder, if desired.
(Recipe by Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji, Culinary Expert and Consultant)
Do Me A Favour
Ingredients: 45 ml Spiced Dark Rum, 10 ml Thandai Syrup, 15 ml Sugar Syrup, 100 gm Ice
Method: Shake all the ingredients with ice and serve in shots glasses.
(Recipe by Sonali Mullick, Head of Operations and Mixologist at Mirah Hospitality)
(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here. To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)