Palor Sharbat

9:40 PM

a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.

Petrichor- a distinctively earthy, crisp, enticing aroma that embodies optimism and suspiration of relief of the parched soul. It nudges many emotions in us while soothing and reassuring us of good times.

Petrichor is a word that I often coin to describe a drink called Palor Sharbot.

Palo, also known as Tikhur or East Indian Arrowroot is the processed rhizome of  Curcuma Angustifolia, a herb that grows wildly in many parts of India. Preparing tikhur or palo from the roots is a lengthy process. First, the roots are foraged, cleaned and painstakingly grated to make a fine paste. It is then soaked in water which next is decanted and the residue is sun-dried to get pristine white globules of starch that is easily soluble in water.

You can watch this Video to see how this is processed.

Palo was a very common ingredient when I was growing up in the villages of Midnapore and 24 parganas. It was part of our diet in many forms, In summer everyone was greeted with this milky white, sweet, watery sherbet that kept the body cool. Weaning babies, recovering patients drank a thick warm version of the same which was cooked briefly to make it thick and easily digestible and during any puja, palo was cooked with aromatics, sugar, and dry fruits to make a jiggly sweet called palor sondesh.

As a kid, I loved this drink and used to be my preferred after school cooler. Ma knew it. So even when we moved to Santiniketan she always made it sure to stock a glass jarful of this starch. But with time I saw less and less of this. This probably was inevitable. 
As we migrate from village to town, we actually move away from many many things, the most important one being, active awareness of seasonality and nature. 

During Puja last year when Prabalika from 'The Hindu' (READ HERE) asked me about my memories of pujo sweets, this is the one that I remembered the most. That chewy texture and the soothing earthy scent is very unique and is a very important part of our family Pujo in Sagar Island. I wanted to make some right away but I was away in Singapore but knew in my heart that I needed to bring this ingredient back to my life.

To my satisfaction, I had a small jarful of the same in my pantry. I soaked some right away just the way maa used to do it, with some rock sugar. After a couple of hours, the drink was ready and tasted exactly how I remembered it.
Sweet, soothing,  smelling of wet earth and bringing in the same satisfaction as the first rain on dry earth. 

You can procure Tikhur from many online portals including Amazon. Buy a small amount and resort to this natural ingredient to cool yourself this summer. Apart from that, this is a well known Ayurvedic medicine to cure cough, urine problem, acidity, and acid reflux disorder. 

Palor Sherbet
(Makes 500 ml)

Palo or Tikhur: 2 tbsp
Rock sugar/ Michri: 2 medium blocks or as per your liking. The drink traditionally is not very sweet, just a hint of sweetness should be there. If you don't have michri use sugar instead (2 tbsp)
Water: 500 ml

Take the water in a jug or big glass. Place the tikhur in it and stir. Wash the rock candies under running water and place in the glass too. Cover and wait for an hour for it to dissolve in water.
Mix well and strain through a fine mesh strainer. Serve chilled or with ice.
Always stir it before serving as the Palo tend to settle at the bottom of the glass.

A Homemaker's Notes:
My kids love some soaked gum tragacanth (Gond Katira) or sabja seeds (basil seeds) added to it. 

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