A traditional alcoholic beverage known as Bhaati Jaanr is prepared by the Nepali community who reside in Sikkim. This delicious drink is prepared from the locally available glutinous rice and medicinal herbs found in the Himalayan foothills.
The starter cake known as marcha is prepared by soaking glutinous rice and mixing it with the roots of Ceylon leadwort (Plumbago zeylanica), leaves of Asian butterfly bush (Buddleja asiatica), flowers of Little Ironweed (Vernonia cinerea), ginger, dry red chilli and powdered old starter cakes.
A little quantity of water is added and the mixture is kneaded into a soft dough. Small flat cakes of varying sizes and shapes are made and placed on a bed of ferns known as pirey uneu (Glaphylopteriolopsis erubescens) and covered with dry ferns and jute bags and kept on the ceiling floor made up of bamboo strips above the kitchen.
These are left to ferment for 1 to 3 days and sundried for 2 to 3 days after which the starter cakes are stored for further use. To prepare the rice beverage, glutinous rice is cleaned and cooked and spread on a bamboo mat.
The fresh starter cakes are ground to a fine powder and mixed with the cool rice and placed in earthen pots for a day or two for saccharification. After which, the mouth of the vessel is sealed and left for fermentation for 2 to 3 days in summer and 7 to 8 days in winter.
The fermented mixture or Bhaati Jaanr is stirred with the help of a hand-operated wooden or bamboo stirrer and consumed directly. Sometimes, the Bhaati Jaanr is stored for a week or more to obtain a yellowish-white supernatant liquor called nigaar which is consumed directly or diluted with some water.
Bhaati Jaanr is a high-calorie beverage recommended for postnatal women and for old and ailing persons who need to recover their strength. The medicinal herbs present in this rice brew are believed to have curative properties.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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