Paruthi Paal Of Tamil Nadu: What Makes This Beverage Special?
Image Credit: Tumblers of paruthi paal, Dreamstime

In the state of Tamil Nadu, as you ask the locals for a native beverage, most likely, you will be directed towards Paruthi Paal. It is a combination of two words: cottonseed means Paruthi, and milk is referred to as paal in Tamil. It is a nutrient-dense drink popular in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Paruthi Paal is a "triple-nutrient" beverage due to its high concentration of protein, vital fatty acids, and sugars. Originally, paruthi paal was prepared in the kitchens of Tamil families. However, since the process is time-consuming, many homes have foregone it. A more accessible alternative is to purchase it from vendors who have become a part of the state's diverse culinary scene.

Recipe based on traditional knowledge

The benefits of this drink are based on local's traditional knowledge. Cottonseeds contain gossypol, a poisonous phenolic chemical with anti-nutritive properties. To make cottonseed milk suitable for human consumption, it must be eliminated. Thus, it is preferable to use a glandless seed free of gossypol.

Cottonseeds must be cleansed before being steeped in water overnight to obtain milk. After soaking, the seeds are mashed with a blender or mixer. The paste is then placed on a muslin cloth, and the filtrate is gathered in a container. At times, jaggery adds sweetness to this drink. The addition of sugar and jaggery enhances the flavour. Custard apple or sitaphal pulp is also employed to augment the taste, aroma, and thickness. In several regions of Tamil Nadu, guests are welcomed with Paruthi Paal. 

Following the widespread recognition of cottonseed milk's health benefits, Tamil residents have created many food items indigenously. Tamucurd, cheese, curd, biryani, and paruthi halwa are a few examples.

Paruthi Paal and Madurai

A roadside vendor selling paruthi paal, Image Source: TamilNaduTourism@Twitter

As the sun is about to bid adieu for the day, the culinary scene in Madurai becomes vibrant. It's when the first pushcarts carrying paruthi paal or cottonseed milk appear. The dealers target places teeming with tourists, visitors, and office and schoolgoers to offer a refreshing drink. Many merchants begin their operations around 4 p.m. Daily labourers start to wind down for the day around this time. A glass of this beverage gives them a boost after a long day.

The recipe is unique to each individual. This milk extract is blended with rice or millet flour, jaggery, dry ginger (or sukku in Tamil), cardamom, and coconut. Some sellers add a tinge of salt, traditional herbs, and condiments like thipili and chitharathai to their spice blend. Almonds are also used in a few domestic recipes.

Health benefits

Paruthi Paal served in clay cups, Image Source: yummytummyaarthi@Instagram

Cottonseed contains 23.1 gm of protein, 22.9 gram of fat, 43.2 gram of carbs, and 3.5 gram of minerals per 100 gram. Paruthi Paal is an excellent cure for the common cold and cough. It has a cooling effect and lowers body heat. This drink is especially beneficial for lactating mothers. Paruthi Paal is a perfect substitute for cow's milk. Those who are lactose intolerant can therefore drink this beverage. It is thought to contain high-density cholesterol (good cholesterol) and sweep away low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol). It lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, promotes neurological health, ensures proper pancreatic function, and enhances blood circulation and digestion. It is said to aid in sleeping better.