In India, colds and flus are often soothed with a steamy cup of haldi doodh, a warm, sweetened concoction of milk steeped with turmeric. And because of its striking golden color, the drink seems somewhat magical.
You’ve probably heard of—or maybe even had—a turmeric latte. These strong, earthy drinks seem to be popping up everywhere in San Francisco these days. And while you may have thought this drink was just another new health trend, it actually has deep roots in Indian culture. It seems that ancient wisdom knows what modern science shows.
In this part of the world, people are only now jumping on the turmeric train for the multitude of health benefits it offers. But in Indian culture, turmeric is so much more than a healthy spice; it is a cultural, spiritual, and culinary symbol for healing, vitality, and celebration.
The Power to Heal
Modern science is starting to discover turmeric’s abundant physical healing properties, many of which have already been acknowledged by traditional Ayurvedic medicine. From reducing inflammation, boosting the immune system, cleansing the liver, and even protecting against certain cancers, turmeric has been touted as a powerfully therapeutic spice. Although a less common practice here because of the predominantly fairer skin tones, in India, people even apply a paste of turmeric topically to treat an array of skin conditions from acne to eczema and even insect bites.
But ayurveda also believes that turmeric’s healing abilities go beyond the physical body to soothe and balance the body’s chakras (or energy centers) and stimulate agni (digestive fire). And when used to treat colds and flus, it’s as much the physical healing properties of turmeric as it is this energetic quality that helps people heal. Even if the symptoms don’t clear up right away, it rejuvenates on a soul level and brings hope.
At DOSA, we capture these healing, revitalizing qualities of haldi doodh with our Samovar Hot Tea, a modern take on the traditional beverage. This soul-warming hot drink invigorates the body and spirit with a blend of turmeric, fragrant sage, spearmint, Samovar tea, and blood orange. The bright yellow hue and the citrusy scent create a zesty and uplifting drink.
Turmeric as Celebration
This uplifting quality of turmeric is likely the reason that it is a key component of many celebrations in India. The Haldi ceremony, which takes place a few days before a Hindu wedding, is a sacred, celebratory ritual in which turmeric plays a central role. Relatives gather in the home of the bride-to-be and cover her face, legs, and arms in a bright yellow paste made of turmeric, rosewater, and sandalwood powder that is believed to cleanse and purify her before marriage and to offer lifelong protection for the couple.
Today in San Francisco, we take the celebratory nature of turmeric to the next level in our Flower Child cocktail. We infuse gin with turmeric to create a bitter, golden liquid, then balance it out with a hit of lemon, spiced agave for sweetness, and egg whites for a lush mouthfeel. While the purest of health enthusiasts may think the idea of putting turmeric in an alcoholic drink sort of defeats the purpose, to us it pays homage to the deep cultural link between turmeric and the joy of celebration.
Turmeric is found in an abundance of Indian dishes and is a key component in many of DOSA’s house-made spice blends. Because of its pungent, bitter flavor, turmeric is more often a supporting spice in a dish rather than the main seasoning. In masala dosa, for example, turmeric is what gives this hearty, savory spiced potato filling a sunny yellow hue. The bitterness can’t be tasted because it is subtly balanced by fragrant curry leaves, sharp mustard seeds, and warming ginger to create a harmonious blend of bold flavors.
While the many wonders of turmeric are still being discovered by modern science, traditional wisdom has given us great insights into many of these properties. No, science will probably never know if this ancient root may have the power to heal more than our physical bodies, balance our energy, or give rise to celebration. But maybe it doesn’t have to. Maybe it’s enough to believe that if a nubby little root can inspire all of this, there has to be more to it than what meets the eye. To experience all the benefits turmeric has to offer, come to DOSA and taste how we use this prized spice in our delicious South Indian cuisine.