The age-old tradition of making and eating Indian yogurt dahi is considered an important part of Indian culture and cuisine. Many people in India keep to a strict vegetarian diet which makes dahi especially important as a natural, delicious probiotic food that supports healthy digestion.
Indian dahi is a special form of fermented milk which is similar to yogurt, but not exactly the same thing. While yogurt is made by bacterial fermentation, typically lactobacillus and streptococcus, dahi is made with an acidic substance like vinegar, lemon juice or even dried red chilies that are used as a “starter” that is added to boiled and slightly cooled whole milk which is then allowed to rest, undisturbed for several hours. It forms a thickened, fermented, high-probiotic, delicious and nourishing food that contains “prana” – the Sanskrit word for energy and life-force.
By traditional standards, this lovely dahi is naturally and slowly fermented in earthen pots which are ideal for this process. Earthen pots protect the dahi, helping to thicken it and keep it pure, delicate and delicious. Unlike some forms of modern cookware, earthen vessels don’t transfer unwanted elements or chemicals into the food. If you don’t have an earthen vessel, however, any non-reactive container like glass or stainless steel can work for fermenting dahi. Keeping fresh dahi on hand becomes easy, as a bit of each batch can then be used as a starter for the next batch.
Dahi is enjoyed every day in India where it is highly regarded for its healthy properties. It can be eaten on its own or with a sweetener such as raw honey, organic cane sugar or jaggery. Here are more ideas for enjoying Indian dahi:
- Top a bowl of dahi with fresh or dried fruits.
- Mix with water to make a lassi, a dahi-based beverage made with water, spices, and sometimes fruits and/or sweeteners. Try it with mangoes, cherries, berries or other fruits, natural sugar or honey, or enjoy as a rejuvenating sour drink.
- Use dahi like sour cream – as a topping for savory dishes or desserts.
- Add to chopped vegetables such as carrots, celery and cucumber. Don’t forget to add spices and fresh herbs like cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, fresh parsley, dill, chives, mint or cilantro.
- Blend with mayonnaise, herbs and spices to make a probiotic, creamy salad dressing.
- Serve as a side dish to vegetable and bean soups.
- Enjoy with a serving of a favorite grain dish such as basmati rice or quinoa.
- Serve with cooked vegetables such as eggplant, squash and tomatoes.
- Try a dollop over blueberry pancakes, waffles, hot oatmeal or cream of wheat.