'Mattha' brings back a lot of memories...all the weddings that I attended over the years, always curious to know what the menu would be, and hoping that it were a traditional Maharashtrian fare, mainly for two main reasons; the first one, that the sweet dish would be 'Jilbi' (Jalebei) and the second being, there would be several 'vaatis' (katori/bowl) of 'Mattha' to wash down the heavy and spicy meal! And then of course, there would be 'Masaale bhaat', 'Aluchi paatal bhaaji' (Patra leaves curry), 'Varan-bhaat', 'Hirvi chutney'...ok, I think, that makes it more than two reasons :)
'Mattha' is basically buttermilk with the addition of certain condiments. On hot summer days, as well as any other day, my mom would churn out fresh buttermilk, which we call 'taak' in Marathi, from 'saayicha dahi' (yogurt made from cream)-- the source for 'loni' (butter) or from regular 'dahi' (yogurt). We used to have 'taak' for lunch or sometimes even at teatime, when it was too hot to drink a cup of tea. This 'taak' used to be flavored with different spices and condiments like cumin powder, hing (asafoetida), at times, both, and sometimes a little ginger and at other times, just salt and a little sugar. And then there was 'Mattha', my favorite version of 'taak', which has a certain combo of condiments added to it. Thus, a typical Maharashtrian meal will always include 'taak' or 'mattha' at the end, whether it is a festive one or just a regular meal.
The 'Taak' that I used to have back at home, in India, was so rich and creamy because of its source-- Buffalo's milk! Unfortunately, there is no 'buffalo milk' here in the US, so we resort to the ready made store-bought buttermilk, which comes from cow's milk. Furthermore, this buttermilk is generally cultured buttermilk, which means that bacteria is added to milk to make it. It does not come out of the churning process that is used to make butter; hence the taste and texture don't match up to homemade buttermilk. The sacrifices one makes after coming here.... :( On the positive side, though, 'taak' or buttermilk, whether cultured or homemade, from cow's milk or buffalo milk, is said to have a cooling effect on the body. It also helps in digestion of food and hence, normally consumed at the end of the meal. I once read an article which said the benefits of buttermilk are so many, that Ayurveda prescribes buttermilk over yogurt! So drink away...
Coming back to 'Mattha', it is easy to make, very soothing and very Maharashtrian! I always have buttermilk at hand and summer lunches are never complete without this chilled and spiced up cooler. Since this is a maharashtrian recipe, it is going straight to Nupur for the RCI-Maharashtrian cuisine event. Enough said, now lets get to the recipe...
Ingredients:(the measures given here are just to give an estimate)
Buttermilk 2 cups
Ginger paste 1/2 tsp
Green chilli paste 1/2 tsp (adjust according to the spiciness of the chilli)
Sugar 1-2 tsp (depending on how sour the buttermilk is)
Pour the buttermilk from the can into a bowl. If you are using store-bought buttermilk, add a little water to thin it out. Buttermilk can also be prepared at home from yogurt. For a rich and creamy taste, use full fat yogurt.
To the buttermilk, add the ginger-chilli paste, sugar, and salt. Mix well and check the taste. It should not be too spicy or too sour. The right flavor is, sweet with a hint of spiciness from the ginger & chilli and a little sourness from the buttermilk itself. Garnish with chopped cilantro. 'Mattha' is ready to be served.