Chhaang: An Underrated Fermented Rice Beer
Chaang is a delicious beverage of Tibet and Nepal, that many have not heard about. It is said to be a beer from the Himalayas carrying various medical benefits. It’s more like a wine that has very low alcohol content made from partially fermented highland barley, millet, or rice grains that are boiled and cooled before yeast is added. It can be served hot or cold and is slightly fizzy with a bit of texture, having both sweet and tart taste. The farmers in Tibet cannot afford expensive beers, therefore it’s said that they make their own Chhaang, a rice beer that is offered to men and women, young and old and is usually served at Newari communal meals that are held for some kind of celebration, or, of course, at home. It is a common part of life and is enjoyed at their festivals. So, pack your bags and visit the Himalayas in order to taste this amazing drink because it’s exclusive to this region and you won’t find it anywhere else in the country.
The rice beer is made in a unique style. The ingredients needed are white rice (anything apart from basmati would serve the purpose), some water, dry yeast (Yeast is known as chanzi or pab in the Tibetan region). Firstly, grind the chaanzi into a fine powder. Then cook the rice normally. After the rice is cooked, stir it well to loosen it and then spread this onto a surface and allow it to cool down, later yeast, and a few wine cubes are added. Put the mixture in a container and seal it to make it ferment. Leave it for 3-4 days, and when you’ll notice the color of the drink change to orange and the taste is sour and sweet, that means the Chhaang is ready to drink.
There are also some traditional rules that come into play when drinking Chhaang, which is “three nips and a whole cup” meaning that the host should replenish the chang cup after each of the first three nips. And after the first three nips, the host should replenish the chhaang cup and the guest should drink up the whole cup. Usually, the host and hostess would sing to propose a toast on a banquet and sometimes there are beautiful-dressed toast girls singing to make the guests drink until they are drunk.
It is generally served as a welcome drink in some parts, but if you buy a bottle of Chhaang, it’ll cost you Rs. 30 or 40.