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Saving sattu sarbat

Saving sattu sarbat

As someone from the Nepali hills, my knowledge of ‘sattu’ was once limited to its use during the auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya. On this day, we were served dry sattu with ‘sarbat’. Our sattu was made from barley and sometimes mixed with jaggery, while the sarbat was a refreshing drink made from lemon and sugar. Offering sattu and sarbat to others on Akshaya Tritiya is believed to please Lord Vishnu. But today I want to discuss a different kind of sattu—one made from black chickpeas (chana) and its accompanying sarbat.

First, let’s clarify the difference between sattu and besan. Not all chickpea flour is sattu. Essentially, sattu refers to any grain or legume that has been roasted and ground into a fine powder. For example, when black chickpeas are ground without roasting, the result is besan. However, once roasted and powdered, it becomes sattu. Sattu can also be made from roasted and powdered maize, barley (jau), or a mix of these grains.

According to food writer-researcher turned anthropologist, Shirin Mehrotra, from India, traditionally making chana sattu involves soaking black chickpeas in water, drying them under the sun, and then roasting them using a technique called ‘bhoojna.’ In this method, a cast-iron wok filled with sand is placed on a wood-fired stove. The sand ensures even heat distribution and removes all moisture from the chickpeas while preserving their nutrients. The roasted chickpeas are then milled along with their husks, resulting in a product with an earthy taste and aroma that lasts longer.

Sattu has been a staple food for farmers and the working class in the Madhesh region of Nepal and the bordering Indian states of Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh. This is likely due to its affordability and high nutritional value. Packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber, sattu is a powerhouse of nutrition, providing the energy needed for a full day’s work. This is why it has earned the status of a superfood.

Consuming sattu on an empty stomach in the morning can do wonders for the body. It aids in proper digestive tract function, with the salt, iron, and fiber content reducing stomach issues and improving bowel movements. According to studies, dietary fiber intake can increase stool frequency and improve bowel movements in people with constipation.

Sattu is also a detoxifying agent, helping to eliminate toxins from the body and intestines. It energizes the body and offers protection from various health disorders. Additionally, sattu helps keep the body cool and hydrated throughout the day, making it an excellent summer drink.

For individuals with diabetes, sattu is an ideal food due to its low glycemic index. Diets with a high glycemic index can lead to higher blood glucose and insulin levels, glucose intolerance, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, low glycemic index foods like sattu have protective effects on the body.

Rich in fiber, sattu is also beneficial for those suffering from high cholesterol. It helps regulate blood pressure and, when consumed on an empty stomach, can aid in weight loss by reducing bloating, enhancing metabolism, and burning calories effectively. The potassium and magnesium in sattu help improve appetite, while its iron content stimulates the production of red blood cells, ensuring adequate oxygen supply and energy throughout the day.

Despite its numerous benefits, the popularity of sattu sarbat is waning. In the past, this refreshing drink was common, especially in hot and humid regions. But a conversation with a friend from Janakpur revealed a concerning trend. He mentioned that while a 50 ml cup of milk tea costs Rs 20 and is favored by the youth, a 300 ml glass of sattu sarbat costs only Rs 30 but is mainly consumed by middle-aged and older individuals. The lack of young customers is forcing sattu sarbat vendors to close their stalls and shift to other occupations.

In an era dominated by marketing and advertising from multinational companies, traditional drinks like sattu sarbat are being overshadowed and forgotten. To preserve this nutritious tradition, positive discrimination from the government and a concerted push from the people are needed. Are we ready to give sattu sarbat the market it deserves?

Promoting sattu sarbat can start with small steps. Educational campaigns highlighting its health benefits could raise awareness among younger generations. Local governments could support vendors through subsidies or promotional events. Schools and colleges might introduce sattu sarbat in their canteens, encouraging students to try this traditional drink.

Moreover, integrating sattu in modern recipes and cuisines could attract a broader audience. For instance, sattu smoothies or energy bars could appeal to health-conscious consumers. Social media influencers and food bloggers can play a pivotal role in reviving interest in sattu sarbat by sharing innovative recipes and personal testimonials.

By promoting and preserving sattu sarbat, we not only honor our traditions but also provide a nutritious, affordable option that benefits everyone’s health. Let’s take action today to save sattu sarbat and ensure it remains a cherished part of our dietary landscape.

Baral is a UK based R&D chef