Sukku kaapi – literally translates to dry ginger decoction, but it has more than just ginger. Used as an effective home remedy for cold & flu or even indigestion.
When people ask me for the inspiration behind some of my popular photos, I almost never have a straight answer for them. Because the truth is, sometimes, the story creates the image, and other times, the image writes the story. This particular image, is a case of the latter.
I was setting up this scene for the shoot, and for a second, I looked into the camera at this smattering of ingredients on the board, and I realized how much like an apothecary table it looked like. It got me thinking about food as medicine – a concept that so many of us grew up with, yet always dismissed it as ancient and outdated. Except, now that we’re older and wiser, it seems the most sensible thing in this world.
Food, when done right, when properly understood, IS medicine. Our kitchens, when stocked right, is an apothecary.
In a world that sensationalizes food, at a time when a chicken sandwich can dominate news cycles, when ‘fast & easy’, ’30 minutes or less’, ‘one pot’ and ‘sheet pan meals’ outranks wholesome food with complex ingredients, that takes hours to simmer, and is actually good for you, I believe that it’s only prudent that we begin by redefining food – no longer to be treated as mere entertainment or even a chore, but as sustenance, with due reverence and respect.
What is Sukku Kaapi?
Sukku Kaapi (pronounced sook-ku kaa-pee) – in Tamil, sukku is ‘dry ginger’, and kaapi is the word for ‘coffee’. Best not taken literally, because there’s no coffee in this, rather, treat it as a decoction of sorts.
My earliest Sukku kaapi memory involves the monsoons – when you come home, drenched and cold from the September rain that battered you left and right, leaving the umbrella you were holding over your head practically useless, there’s nothing that sets you right like a piping hot cup of Sukku Kaapi.
With every sip, the spices rush through your insides, like a dragon’s breath, warming you from the inside out, and within just a few sips, you have forgotten all about the cold and the wet that bothered you barely a few minutes past.
That’s what this is. A fix. And centuries of ancient culinary wisdom.
Although dry ginger is the dominant ingredient in this beverage, in truth, it is a concoction of whole spices that together, act as a very powerful home remedy for cold & flu, or with a little tweak, indigestion.
Yes, the ingredients will essentially remind you of curry powder, and when you smell it, yes, it smells like curry. Might feel weird to be making a beverage out of curry powder, but my friend, remember: food is medicine.
Sukku Kaapi was made from scratch, when needed. The spices were ground up coarsely in a mortar and pestle and boiled in water until the flavors and essence steeped into a gravy brown liquid. It was then sweetened with palm sugar candy – panam kalkandu – which is extracted from a palm sap. It’s a low glycemic sugar, that has a lot of nutrients, is a thirst quencher, cools down the body, and is used in Ayurveda to liquify phlegm from the lungs and to ease sore throats.
The entire thing is then strained, and lightened with a little milk.
For those who, like me, find tea or coffee brewing therapeutic, this is too, therapeutic. But for those who just need a quick fix, and if you’re sick, that is understandable, keep reading.
To speed things up,
Around flu season, you can roast and grind the spices, then store them in an airtight container for whenever you need it. When you do, add a teaspoon to your cup, and pour over boiling water. Make sure it’s boiling. You can then sweeten it with pre-powdered palm sugar candy, or honey or maple syrup. If it’s still too spicy for your taste, add a little almond milk to your cup and enjoy!
For a sore throat, follow the recipe as is. You can also steep in a few basil/holy basil leaves for both flavor and as a remedy.
If you are suffering from indigestion, squeeze a slice of lemon.
Even if you are a dairy-drinker, it’s best to avoid milk in this beverage, as it agitates the mucous glands and gastrointestinal tissues.
For the spice mix
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp whole black pepper
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 green cardamom pods
- 2 cloves
- 2 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 cup of water
- Almond milk (optional)
- Palm sugar candy, to sweeten
- In a skillet, dry roast the whole spices (not the ground ginger). Let cool completely.
- Transfer to a small, high-powered blender along with the ground ginger and blend until smooth. Sift twice to remove lumps. Store in a clean airtight container for upto 2 months.
- Bring a cup of water to the boil. Add one teaspoon of the spice mix and continue boiling for another minute. Turn off heat, and sweeten with palm sugar candy (that's been powdered or pulverized). Add almond milk till the liquid turns pale.
- Serve hot, sipping carefully.
- If you cannot find palm sugar candy, you can sweeten your tea with jaggery, coconut sugar or even honey.
- I drink mine without almond milk or sweetening. It's a lot more spicier, but when you have a cold, that heat from the spices really helps unclog the phlegm almost instantly.
- With the milk and sweetening, it is a milder, more delicate drink, and definitely more enjoyable.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 6Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g
Disclaimer: This nutritional data is calculated using third party tools and is only intended as a reference.