I stepped out to get clothes off the line and I almost fainted, OMG! The heat is outrageous. The minute I dumped the clothes on the bed, I thought I should have a glass of lassi or buttermilk. Well, thanks to technology, I just grabbed some yoghurt from the refrigerator, put it in the juicer, added a few ice cubes, sugar, and a few cashews and blended it. My glass of lassi was ready which I greedily gulped and cooled myself down.
Isn’t this the simplest way to make lassi that we all are familiar with? But have you ever wondered how it was done in the past, when there were no food processors, blenders or juicers? In Nepal, people used a special device called theki to churn curd to get butter and buttermilk.
Theki plays a very important role in Nepalese history and culture. It has been in use for a very long time. Though most of the youngsters today consider it as an antique, some households still own one and use it too, just like mine. My mom and dad use it to extract butter and buttermilk. This simple appliance follows the rule of centrifugation.
Traditionally, thekis are made of wood. In fact, you would be surprised to know that a theki is carved out from a single piece of log and given a container-like look. It has a cylindrical body with a narrow neck that features a wooden lid. Apart from the jar and the lid, it had a long wooden churner also called the saro that has four wooden blades attached to the end of it. These blade-like structures are called pora. The churner also has rope wound around it with small wooden knobs at the end to hold. This rope is called the neti and the wooden knobs at the free end of the rope are called koila.
Using The Theki To Churn Buttermilk
The process begins by storing boiled milk in the theki. It is important to boil the milk for a good twenty minutes in a heavy-bottomed pan so that the milk doesn’t stick to the wall or the base of the pan.
Once the milk is boiled, let it cool down until a nice layer of cream is formed on top. Next, slowly scoop out the cream and put it in the theki and cover it with the lid. Repeat this process for the next few days until the theki is half full. By the third day, you will notice all the milk and the cream collected in the theki would have turned into curd.
Next, you put the theki on the ground or on the floor, take off the lid and insert the churner or saro. After that, you will have to sit back and stretch your leg in front and hold the theki with your feet to secure it.
Now hold the knobs (one in each hand) and start pulling it. When your right hand goes front, your left hand will come back. Every time it whirls, the curd starts breaking down into butter milk. Keep up the to and fro motion, and in the process add cold water until butter starts forming. You will see butter floating on top of the butter milk. And when you feel enough amount of butter is formed, you can take the churner out and keep it aside.
Next, scoop out the butter using your hand. Once you have extracted all the butter, you will be left with butter milk that can be used for multiple purposes including making lassi. At this stage, it is very easy to make lassi. All you have to do is add sugar and ice into it or drink it plain without adding anything. It still tastes amazing.
Theki in Nepal is considered sacred, it is not washed with other utensils and people generally do not touch a theki while they are eating or with the same hand with which you have had non- vegetarian food. The reason for that is once the butter is extracted, it is offered to God over a burning heap of coal, which releases a nice buttery aroma purifying the whole house.
Theki now is turning out to be an antique household item; very few houses in the villages have it. I don’t think people living in the cities own it any more. In cities, we hardly get pure milk leave alone curdling it and making butter out of it.
If you already own one, you most probably have experienced what I have described above. If you are planning to acquire one then I strongly recommend you to do so. It is a good feeling to experience the joy of making buttermilk using a traditional device just like our elders used to.
If you don’t intend to use it at all or would want to use it occasionally, it will make for a good antique showpiece in your living room or any other part of your house. Guests who don’t know about it will surely be curious and ask questions. You can then have a mini history/culture/tradition class and inspire your guests to go back to the roots.
Thekis are available in different sizes varying on the capacity. If you have any queries regarding the same, do let me know. I would be glad to answer.
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