Sunday, January 20, 2008

Chukku Kappi – Kerala’s Herbal Coffee & Home Remedy.

When a local politician makes an unsolicited entry at the naming ceremony of a baby and tries hard to be part of that family, cracking a joke or two or giving a helping hand in serving food, thinking he is an indispensable part of the community events, an elderly person, who is not so fond of this politician, from the crowd might sarcastically say, “Chukkillatha Kashayam undo?!” Though in this case it is used colloquially to metaphorically convey the idea that he/she is an all in all and central figure of that community, this popular saying has its origins in Ayurveda, an ancient treatment method that is native to India. Chukku is dry ginger and Kashayam is a herbal combination decoction, a type of medicine in Ayruveda. Chukku/Dry ginger is a significant and vital ingredient in preparing Kashayam as well as a common ingredient in most of the Ayurvedic medicines, because of its digestive properties and hence the literal translation of this saying, “chukkillatha kashayamilla” would be that there is no decoction without chukku/dry ginger.

Those days when I returned from school, feeling feverish with a slight throat infection and cold and lied down there tightly holding on to my blanket, trying all possible ways to attract some “sympathy waves”, from the “Supreme-court” of the family, to get exemption from going to school the next day, I remember my mother slowly going to the kitchen, lighting the stove, grabbing some spice jars and throwing few stuff into pot and then rushing to the front yard to snip off some fresh Tulasi/Holy Basil from that small plant and coming back to my room with a piping hot cup of coffee in her hand. The decoction used to be hot n’ spicy, sweet and aromatic at the same time. Sitting next to me, making sure that I inhaled all that steam coming from the coffee, she used to wait for me till I drank the whole thing and let me sleep. After half an hour or so, I found myself trying to come out of the blanket zone as I would be sweating heavily as the herbal coffee would have kicked out that mild fever which gave a ray of hope, of skipping school, few hours back!! A home remedy that shattered the dreams of an innocent school kid!

Chukku Kappi
is a herbal medicinal decoction using pungent spices like dry ginger, peppercorns, cumin and an aromatic herb like Tulasi/Holy Basil with a touch of jaggery and flavored by coffee or tea. It’s quite strong and spicy and sweet which helps alleviate cough and cold, mild fever, throat infections and nasal congestions. This is the simplest of Kashayam (A type of Ayurvedic medicine) which you can make at home.

After marriage, whenever one of us were down with fever or cold, I used to call up my mother for the right ingredients and measurements for this home remedy and those who have been following this blog, know well that I don’t have the good habit of writing down such things and hence when this routine was repeated two weeks back, I heard a long sigh from my mother, before she gave the pointers, implying that,” Hasn’t she learnt it yet after so many years?! “; so I thought it’s high-time I write it down somewhere before she loses all respect for me, if any!! This post is for all those who are staying away from home, not knowing the simplest home remedies, not wanting to take a Tylenol or a Crocin and searching the net frantically for grandma’s home remedies, to take a mouthful and settle down at your comfort zone, rekindling the memories of a colorful past!

  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 tsp coffee powder or tea leaves
  • 1 tsp powdered dry-ginger/chukku OR a small ½ ” piece pounded
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper powder
  • ½- ¾ tsp cumin/jeera powder
  • Jaggery/Sharkkara to taste (I Used 3 cylindrical pieces, like the one in the pic)
  • 6-7 fresh leaves of Tulasi/Holy Basil
  • In a saucepan, heat water and jaggery/sharkkara pieces together; when it starts melting, add the powdered dry –ginger/chukku, pepper powder and cumin powder. When boiling, add the coffee powder and let it continue boiling for a minute and at this stage, add the Tulasi/Holy Basil leaves and turn off the stove and close the pan with a lid.
  • Strain the coffee and pour it to a coffee mug and immediately inhale the steam coming from the coffee. Try to have a facial steam bath and sip the piping hot coffee slowly, enjoying the aroma coming from tulasi and the pungent flavors from the spices. (Note: Consuming more dry ginger may cause constipation and hence please do not take more than 2 servings of Chukku Kappi per day, on sick days)
Here is an interesting read on Chukku and its medicinal benefits.

If you have time, read how Charline, a French belle , in love with Kerala , writes passionately about Chukka kappi in her blog; for the English version click here.

This goes to Meeta’s Comfort Foods and Jyothsna’s RCI- Kerala.


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