Have you noticed the little bowl of colorful, candied seeds sitting close to the door at Indian restaurants? Maybe you’ve even tried a small spoonful? It’s called “mukhwas”. It’s a common treat in Indian homes and restaurants, and for very good reason! Not only is it a tasty after-meal breath freshener, it’s also a good digestive aid.
Mukhwas means “mouth smell”. It comes from two Sanskrit words: “mukh” (“mouth”) and “vaas” (“smell”). It’s meant to be consumed in small quantity – just a quarter to a half teaspoon or so. The seeds should be chewed well, allowing the flavors, oils and aromas to be released.
Mukhwas can be sweet or savory, mild or spicy, simple or complex. Typical ingredients include aromatic culinary and medicinal seeds like fennel, coriander, ajwain, sesame and anise. Many recipes feature fruits such as coconut, raisins or dates and some contain oils and extracts like rose and peppermint. Often the commercial varieties contain candy-like coatings that, although quite colorful, contain chemical food dyes. Of course, here at Pure Indian Foods, we avoid such dyes and artificial ingredients, opting for healthier, chemical-free, organic versions.
There is no standard recipe for mukhwas. Part of the fun is getting creative according to one’s personal preference, taste and Ayurvedic dosha (constitutional body type). This is easily accomplished by choosing specific ingredients that support one or more doshas. For example:
If your constitution is predominately VATA, a good combination can include fennel, cumin and ajwain seeds along with pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, coconut, lemon juice, salt, a natural sweetener and a pinch of cardamom and/or cinnamon. Go easy on too many dried fruits since VATA dosha tends towards dryness.
If your constitution is predominately PITTA, a good combination can include pumpkin and sunflower seeds, dates, flaxseed, coconut, cumin and coriander seeds, date or organic cane sugar and a drop of edible peppermint oil. Go easy on the salt and lemon juice as these may aggravate PITTA dosha.
If your constitution is predominately KAPHA, a good combination might include fennel, ajwain and caraway seeds, along with pumpkin, sunflower and flaxseeds, raisins, and a pinch of coriander, cumin, cinnamon and cardamom. Use dried fruits to sweeten; go easy on added sugars and oily fruits like coconut as these may increase KAPHA dosha.
Remember, mukhwas is an important digestive aid! The seeds and other ingredients carry unique tastes and medicinal properties that act upon the digestive system. Chewing mukhwas after a meal – particularly a heavy meal – helps reduce gas and bloating by assisting Agni, the digestive fire, in burning strongly. The very act of chewing signals the body to release the appropriate digestive enzymes.
Try our yummy recipe for Cardamom-Scented Maple-Mukhwas