How to make Panakam or Panagam ~ Jaggery Limeade flavoured with crushed cardamoms, peppercorns and dry ginger, a refreshing and healthy summer drink
Today is the ninth and last day of Chaitra Navaratri as per Hindu calendar. Today is also Ram Navami, a festival that celebrates the arrival of Vishnu’s 7th avatar, Lord Rama. Growing up in South India, it meant eating kosambari (cucumber and moong bean salad) while guzzling down tall glass of Panakam (sweet and summery health drink of jaggery and lime flavoured with crushed green cardamom, peppercorns and dry ginger), listening to the tales of Ramayana.
I am not a religious person, but that doesn’t stop me from cooking and eating festive foods. As with any other Hindu festival, Ram Navami is also celebrated with special food offered to the deity called neivedyam. Once the food is offered to the god, it is distributed among people as prasad or prasadam, a blessed food. Panakam is one such food that is made during Ram Navami along with other neivedyams such as kosambari, and majjige neeru (spiced butter milk). They are simple and quite refreshing summer recipes, showcasing the wisdom and scientific reason with great health benefits behind every festival food designed by our ancestors. The word Panakam in Sanskrit means ‘sweet drink’ and as the name suggests, it’s a sweet drink of jaggery and lime flavoured with crushed green cardamoms, peppercorns and dry ginger.
It is well known fact that seasonal variations introduce a multitude of changes in health conditions of the human body, and how one should combine seasonal produce in our diet. Thousands of years before modern medicine provided scientific evidence for the mind-body connection, the sages of India developed Ayurveda (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge), which continues to be one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful mind-body health systems. More than a mere system of treating illness, Ayurveda is a science of life. It offers a body of wisdom designed to help people stay vibrant and healthy while realising their full human potential. As per Ayurvedic principle, heat during the summer causes variations in vaatha (lethargy) and kapha (phlegm) and subsides jataraagni (the fire which induces hunger) which leads to loss of appetite. The ingredients in Panakam, which acts as a coolant in the hot sweltering summer, is believed to counteract such elements and rejuvenate mind and body.
The Ayurvedic approach is about aligning with the infinite organising power of nature rather than struggling or trying to force things to go your way. Back in the days, I remember my grandmother and mother offering a cool water drawn from wells and stored in large earthen pots to guests with a small bowl filled with jaggery. It was the first thing that was given to any guests who walked into home as jaggery which is rich with minerals, restores and regulates the fluid and salt equivalents lost in sweating. Panakam is a physiological equivalent of Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) and is much healthier than ORS which contains cane sugar which in turn increases the blood sugar level. It’s been scientifically proven that jaggery also has raw carbohydrates which facilitates the electrolytes into cells. The jaggery in Panakam doesn’t undergo chemical process unlike sugar, and is a natural thirst quencher that brings down the body temperature during sweltering summer days.
Just like jaggery which is rich in iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, the other ingredients used in Panakam also has health benefits. The dry ginger has astringent and anti-oxidant properties while other ingredients aid in digestion and cleansing of gastrointestinal tracks. The ingredients in Panakam is believed to target specific issues. It addresses problems like urological disorders, heart diseases, body pains, cold and cough, asthma and much more. It also acts as an appetiser and stimulates the senses. (Source: The Hindu)
With such powerful boost to our immune system, no wonder why Panakam was a favoured drink to serve during summer months! My grandmother always made a huge batch of Panakam and stored it in an earthen pot and served to everyone to quench thirst. Isn’t it such a wonderful drink which is not only healthy, but also contains no processed ingredients. As LD is at home, enjoying two weeks of spring break, I decided to make tall jug of this refreshing drink. As a mother, I go to great length to make sure that he eats and drinks fresh, mostly home cooked, food every day that is not only fills his stomach, but boosts his immune systems and keeps him healthy. And Panakam beats any other sugar high drinks sold in supermarkets which are high on calories and zero nutrition!
Whenever I introduce any new food to LD, I make sure that he is part of prepping and cooking the dish so that he sees everything that goes into making the dish. LD was super excited to make this Panakam with one of his most favourite ingredient, jaggary! :) He even helped me with styling for the food photo shoot by picking the flowers from garden and choosing the props! Who can refuse when lil guy offers to be a hand model for the blog! It’s other matter that he wants to taste everything in between to make sure that the said food in picture is really, really delicious and blog worthy! ;) I must say that the energy and joy of this 6 year old is quite contagious and we went little OTT with styling for Panakam. ;) Well, here is the result, as this got to be the freshest recipe post, as the food was made, styled, shot, edited, written in a single day! So here we go…
Panakam (Refreshing and healthy summer drink of jaggery and lime flavoured with pepper, dry ginger and cardamoms)
Prep Time: 5 mins
Resting Time: 15 – 20 mins + 1-2 hours in refrigerator
Cooking Time: N/A
Recipe Level: Easy
Spice Level: Low
Shelf Life: Best served fresh but can be refrigerated for a day
Serving Suggestion: As a refreshing and health drink
2 cups water
¼ - ½ cup Jaggery (Adjust as per taste)
½ - 1 Lime, juice extracted (Adjust as per taste)
3 Green Cardamoms, peeled and seeds crushed to powder
6-8 Black Pepper Corns, crushed to powder (Adjust as per taste)
1/8 tsp Dry Ginger Powder or 1-2 tsp fresh Ginger Juice
A pinch of Salt (Optional)
- Take jaggery and water in a jug and keep it aside for 10-15 minutes for it to dissolve completely.
- While the jaggery is dissolving, peel and take the black seeds from green cardamoms and place it on a mortar and pestle. Don’t discard the skin. Add pepper corns to it and crush them to fine powder.
- Squeeze the lime to extract juice. Add this lime juice, cardamom and pepper corn powder, green cardamom skin, dry ginger powder and salt to water and mix them all well. If using fresh ginger juice, grate or crush the ginger in a pestle and mortar and squeeze the ginger juice.
- Let it rest for 10 minutes for all the flavours to blend well. Strain the juice and chill it in a refrigerator for an hour or two.
- Serve this chilled Panakam as a refreshing drink. Enjoy!
- You can add a pinch of edible camphor, pinch of saffron and few Tulsi or holy basil leaves to the Panakam if offering to deities as neivedyam.
- You can also add about ¼ cup of finely chopped and crushed musk melon.
- If using fresh ginger juice, grate or crush the ginger in a pestle and mortar and squeeze the ginger juice.
- Sometimes I use boiled hot water as it quickly dissolves the jaggery compared to the water at room temperature. Add all other ingredients when it is still warm to get maximum flavour and once it comes to room temperature, strain and chill it in refrigerator.
- If you don’t have enough time to chill the Panakam, just add couple of ice cubes and serve immediately.