It’s that time of the year, when everyone gets sick. Some people prefer to use home remedies instead of using medicine to treat the common cold or cough. Here are some Tamil home remedies that I grew up with, and continue to use today. I think overall, ginger, garlic, black peppercorns, cumin and omam go along way in making you feel better. If you try and incorporate these into your diet on a regular basis, it can be helpful in preventing illnesses. These are things my mother and grandmother use to use as a first line of defence before any Western medicine. Often times, this was enough to help me feel better. While these remedies may help, it is always good to consult your doctor when sick.
- Vethu Pidikirathu or Aavi Pidikirathu is when you steam water in a large pot filled with spices and herbs and then put a blanket over it and inhale the steam to help remove congestion and relive a runny nose. I used 2 tablespoons of omam, a tablespoon of black peppercorns, half a tablespoon of cumin seeds, a pinch of turmeric and a lemon cut up in this mixture. This always makes you feel better.
- Malli Thanni My mother use to give this to me all the time when I was sick. Malli thanni is simple to make, and used to aid in the healing of colds, flu, sore throat or sinuses. While the recipe I posted here is simple, you can also a tablespoon each of add black peppercorns and cumin seeds to malli thanni for added benefit. Use lots of ginger.
- Rasam is a spicy soup that helps during colds. The active ingredient are the black peppercorns.
- Puli Kanji is the equivalent of chicken soup in Western cultures, eaten when you are suffering from a cold or fever. Trust me, when you are sick, there is nothing better than a bowl of puli kanji.
- Garlic. I hated this when I was a child. My mom would lightly roast the garlic and give it to me during a cold. Nowadays, I just slightly boil the garlic and eat it during a cold. For those who can’t seem to digest this, grind up the garlic and just add it to food (this is what I do for my husband, who doesn’t like whole garlic in his food).
- Honey, lemon and ginger tea. Mix the juice of one lemon, a thumb slice of peeled, slivered ginger with a spoon of honey to a cup of boiling water and drink. Adding a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to this works wonders. I use this frequently with the apple cider vinegar, and notice that any throat pain and stuffiness is relieved quickly when I add the apple cider vinegar.
- Salt-water gargle. Salt is effective in removing bacteria and provides relief to an itchy throat. Add half a tablespoon of salt to a glass of warm water an gargle. Repeat as necessary. Do not swallow the water.
- Sukku-malli coffee. You can buy this as a ready made powder or make your own. I have both (when I’m sick, I’m usually too tired to make everything). To make this from scratch, dry roast a quarter cup of coriander seeds, a teaspoon of black peppercorns and half a tablespoon of cumin seeds . Once roasted, let it cool and turn it into a powder with a mixer. Add half a cup of dry ginger powder to this. Your coffee powder is now ready. To make the coffee, add 2 teaspoons of this mixture to a cup of water, add sugar or rock sugar and drink.
I hope these remedies help you stay healthy and fight off your cold and flu faster!
If you’re looking for a spicy kick to your morning, try making spicy eggs.
- Onion - 1 whole diced
- Cumin Seeds - half a tablespoon
- Eggs - 4 beaten with a pinch of baking powder
- Chill Powder - half a tablespoon (or more or less depending on taste)
- Salt - to taste
- Mustard Seeds - half a table spoon
- Curry leaves - 5
- Turmeric - quarter table spoon
- Cheese - Cheddar and Mozzarella mix (optional)
- Heat oil in a pan and once warm, fry mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves.
- Add onions and fry till golden brown.
- Add tomatoes and fry for a minute.
- Beat the eggs, chilli powder, turmeric, baking powder. Add this mixture to the pan.
- Let it cook on each side.
- Remove from heat and add cheese (optional).
- Garnish with coriander leaves.
- You can substitute the chilli powder for Jaffna curry powder also.
If you make crab curry, or puli kanji, then you probably have some leftover murungai illai that you maybe wondering what to do. Murungai illai varai is a healthy way to use up any leftover murungai illai. Murungai illai (drumstick leaves) contains potassium, calcium, vitamins A and C and is said to help cleanse blood, control sugar, remove phlegm and aid digestion. It is widely used in Tamil cooking and remedies. It’s used in Ayurveda and Sidha Vaithiyam. You eat it as a side with rice and other curries.
- Mustard Seeds – half a teaspoon
- Dry red chili – 1or 2 (I used green chillies because I ran out of dry red ones, but use dry red ones if you have)
- Shallots – 8
- Murungai Illai (Drumstick leaves) – 2 cups
- Salt – to taste
- Coconut – scraped, ½ a cup
- Wash the murungai leaves. It is best to wash them with the stems, and then pluck the leaves off. If you pluck the leaves off first and wash them, it can get very tedious. Make sure you pluck the leaves off the stems for the fry. Pat them dry. (When you are frying things, you don’t want any water because that will cause oil to sputter when you add it to the frying pan).
- Cut up shallots. You can use regular onions too, but I find that shallots add better flavor.
- In a pan, heat up oil. Once the oil is warm, add the curry leaves, mustard seeds, dry red chillis (setha milagai).
- Add the shallots and let them cook through.
- Add the murungai illai (drumstick leaves) and salt. Cook for 5-7 minutes.
- Add the coconut shavings.
- Mix will and let it cool.
- Remember to stir often to prevent burning.
I enjoy riddles. My uncle use to listen to riddles on the radio and share them with me. Many Tamil riddles from Jaffna are passed down through the oral tradition. The odd times I listen to the Tamil radio, I still hear riddles and trivia, and it makes me think that this tradition and interest in riddles is still alive. Here are some Jaffna Tamil Riddles about food – I’ll see if I can find a few more. See how many of them can you guess before checking the answers!
Riddle: மண்ணுக்குள் இருக்கும் மனிதன். உரிக்க உரிக்க தோல்தான். அது என்ன? There lives a man under the soil, whom when you strip, is nothing but skin. What is it?
Answer: அது வெங்காயம். An onion.
Riddle: மஞ்சல் நிறத்தழகி. மங்கையர் முகத்தழகி. அவள் யார்? A lady coloured yellow, most beautiful on ladies’ faces. Who is she?
Answer: அது மஞ்சள். Turmeric.
Riddle: ஒரு பெட்டிக்குள் இரு தைலம். அது என்ன? Two different substances in one box. What is it?
Answer: அது முட்டை. An egg.
Riddle: ஆயிரம் பேர் கூடி, அழகான மண்டபம் கட்டி, ஒருவர் கண் பட்டு, உடைந்ததாம் மண்டபம். அது என்ன? A thousand people came together and built a beautiful hall, but when a single person spots it, it is broken into pieces. What is it?
Answer: அது தேன்கூடு. A honeycomb.
If you’re looking to add a super fruit to your diet, nellikai (also known as indian gooseberry or amla) is your best bet. If you grew up in a Tamil household, it is likely you probably were told to eat this by your mom or grandmother at some point. I’ll admit, I use to absolutely hate eating raw nellikai. It’s a small fruit, but it can be quite bitter. But after a few, it becomes an acquired taste.
Nellikai is one of the richest natural sources of Vitamin C (more than an orange!) and is widely used in Ayurveda and other home remedies to treat anemia, skin diseases, ingestion and more. It is believed to strengthen the body’s immunity and resistance and is highly effective in lowering blood cholesterol.
Nellikai is also used widely in many hair products, as it is seen as a hair tonic and is believed to help promote hair growth and prevent premature greying of hair.
Next time you visit your local Tamil grocery store, pick up a few nellikai and see how you like them.
Whenever I have mussels, I am reminded of my brother and sister, who love mussels. This makes a great starter for a dinner party. This isn’t an Eelam style recipe, more of a fusion. I hope you enjoy this 🙂
- Mussels - scrubbed and debearded
- Cumin Seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Chili powder – to taste, I added half a tablespoon
- Jaffna curry powder – half a tablespoon
- Onion – 1 chopped
- Butter – 2 tablespoons
- Garlic - Half a bulb, cut finely
- Spicy sausage – 1 whole
- White cooking wine – 1 cup
- Tomato – diced very finely 1-2
- Salt – to taste
- Coriander leaves – for garnish
- Heat up butter in a large pan and let it melt.
- Add onions and let it cook until it becomes translucent, usually around 6 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cumin seeds and spicy sausage and cook for another 8 minutes.
- Add diced tomatoes, slivered zucchini, chili powder, teaspoon of Jaffna curry powder and salt.
- Lower the heat and add a cup of white cooking wine.
- Add the mussels and let them cook until they open. Discard any unopened shells, about 4 minutes.
- Garnish with coriander leaves.
- Enjoy ☺
- Eggs 2-3
- Peppercorns, crushed
- Chilli Powder
- Coriander leaves - to garnish
- Bring water to a boil
- Add eggs and boil eggs for 4-5 minutes (timing may vary based on your stove).
- Remove from water, wash with cold water.
- Crack open the top, and using a spoon, scoop out the egg without touching the yolk.
- Sprinkle salt, peppercorns, chilli powder and paprika.
- Add coriander leaves for garnish.
If you’re looking for a quick and tasty way to add veggies to your diet, or use up the random veggies that are going to go bad in your fridge, then this recipe is for you. I’ve used broccoli, brussels sprouts and carrots in this, but you can adapt this with a variety of other cruciferous vegetables.
- Cruciferous vegetables of your choice, cut up to make 2 cups (I used broccoli, brussels sprouts and carrots)
- Onion - 1 large, sliced
- Fennel Seeds - 0.75 tablespoon
- Salt - to taste
- Pepper - to taste (optional)
- Turmeric - 0.25 tablespoon
- Boil the vegetables until half boiled, strain and set aside.
- In a pan, heat 1 spoon of oil and add the fennel seeds, onions and some salt. Let it fry for about a minute, you don't want the onions to cook very much here.
- Add the vegetables and turmeric to the pan and mix well. Cover the pan with a lid and set to medium heat. This will help form some water. In about 5 minutes, add milk. Add just enough milk to lightly coat the vegetables. Only add the milk once the veggies are pretty throughly cooked through. I usually find the quantity of milk varies depending on the veggies I use, but it usually ends up being less than half a cup of milk. Reduce to low heat (you don't want to boil the milk).
- Taste for salt and pepper and adjust if necessary.
- Do not keep this curry out for long as it can go bad because of the milk, so be sure to keep any leftovers refrigerated.