Season Special:The Goodness of Thekuwa
- Sharada Jnawali
Tihar, the festival of sweets, fruits and nuts, follows the festival of Chhaat which is mostly celebrated in the terai to worship the Sun God. For four days, during this period, people eat only satvik food, mainly rice pudding made of brown rice cooked in unrefined sugar and milk along with various types of sweets, more importantly the thekuwa, and breads made of wheat flour and jaggery combined with fruits. Thekuwa is a type of cookie, specially prepared during this occasion and offered to the Sun God.
- 2 cups wheat flour
- 1/2 cup jaggery (shakkhar)
- 1/2 cup dry fruit (cardamom, raisins, coconut)
- 2-3 bananas
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- Cooking oil
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Sieve flour to let the air pass through and lighten it
Mix flour with ghee and all sugar by rubbing it between the palms until it creates knots
Add banana and mash well to the dough using hands
Add dry fruits and mix well
Mix milk if the dough is too hard
Leave for some time to allow melting of the sugar
Make small ball and shape it in a thekuwa mold choosing any shape
Heat oil and fry it in low temperature by turning two sides until brown
Remove and let it cool to turn into crispy cookies
Note: (a) since it is marinated in ghee, it does not absorb extra oil on frying, but try to bake it in oven if oil is of concern to you, (b) try to select ripe banana for better flavor, (c) though there is special mold for making it in traditional style, you may chose other molds for designs, (d) add 2 tablespoons of corn flower to the mixture for crispier product.
Jaggery or gurh is produced from cane juice and traditionally used for sweetening. It has been in use for over 3000 years in ayurvedic medicine. It is better to use at least one-year-old jaggery than fresh. It is rich in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium, all the essential minerals for health maintenance. It also contains vitamin B6 and folic acid which help in relieving fatigue, relaxes muscle and nerves, regulates blood vessels, maintains blood pressure, and improves hemoglobin production. Jaggery gets absorbed in the body slowly, aiding in cleansing lungs and intestine. One teaspoon of raw sugar contains 11 calories as opposed to 16 calories in refined sugar.
Whole wheat is loaded with fiber, helping improve metabolism and preventing diabetes. One cup of whole wheat contains 32.7% fiber, 55.5% manganese, 28% tryptophan, 14.5% magnesium, and 151 calories. The magnesium strengthens bone health and prevents pre-menstrual syndrome and anemia; tryptophan helps in regulating appetite, enhancing sleep, and elevating mood; while magnesium assists in improving metabolism.
Banana is a whole food with multiple health benefits. Banana has high potassium and low salt helping prevent muscle cramps and heart problems. It helps sustain blood sugar during intensive workouts. Rich in pectin, banana aids in digestion and removes toxins and heavy metals from the body. Due to the presence of natural antacid, it relieves acid reflux and heartburn. Fiber content normalizes bowl movement while the tryptophan present in banana converts into serotonin, the mood booster or stress releaser enzyme.
Most nuts are loaded with heart healthy substances such as Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber which help in lowering bad cholesterol. Presence of vitamin E and plant sterol in nuts help protect arteries from forming plaques, enhance functioning of arteries, and make reduce formation of blood clots. Due to presence of phytonutrients, combination of nuts and whole wheat helps prevent diseases. Whole grain, loaded with vitamin B6, combined with vitamin E in nuts, is essential for healthy skin, hair, muscles, and brain.
Cinnamon reduces risks of diabetes by regulating blood sugar and lowering LDL. Besides being a natural anti infective, it also reduces pain linked to arthritis and prevents proliferation of cancer cells. It acts as a natural food preservative and is effective for menstrual pain and infertility.
Frying cookies in canola oil is the best selection due to its tolerance to high temperature and it is best to cook at 400 0F. Peanut oil is great for frying due to similar property. The other relatively good oils are sunflower, corn oil, or light olive oil.
Source: www.apeda.gov.in; www.whfoods.com; www.os.care2.com; and various other sources
There are various beliefs on how the Chhaat festival emerged. Some consider the Sun God as the supreme god; hence people worship the sun to purify themselves and bring family prosperity and fulfill wishes. There is also belief that the Chhaat festival is associated with the Mahabharata and that Yudhishtir used to pray to the Sun God in the dusk.
The Hindu religion builds on the belief that the rising sun is energetic, powerful, happy, and auspicious, while the dusk sun is the symbol of patience, purity, and peacefulness. Therefore, the cultural practice of getting up early and greeting the sun before starting the day is considered good for health and spirituality.
Ms. Sharada Jnawali, a development practioner, promotes Nepali food and spices for nutritional and health benefits.