I was born in the state of Haryana, India. The tagline goes as
“Haryana- jit Doodh Dahi ka Khaana”
The tagline roughly translates that the state is famous for milk and curd. The sheer abundance in which it is available renders it a staple of our diet. Be it an entree, snacks, or desserts. Milk is so important that we use it as offering to Gods and Goddesses too. We even use it to make Ghee, a form of clarified butter to create our cuisines. One of its most popular by-products in India is Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese). Paneer is nothing short of an honorary condiment that charges big moolahs and appears in gravy, barbecues, stuffed paranthas, salads, and even sprinkled in a shredded form and is a staple in desserts (especially the Bengali sweets).
We make paneer by curdling milk. Making paneer at home is very easy. Boil milk in a pan and when once it reaches boiling point, pour lemon juice or vinegar mixed with water in the ratio of 1:1. For 2 liters milk, use either four fresh lemon or 1/2 cup vinegar. Remove the pan from the flame. Use a wooden spatula to rotate milk while pouring lemon or vinegar. As soon as the citrus touches it, it will form curds and rise on the top. The liquid that remains is called Whey.
Quite recently, I became acquainted with the world of drinking Whey. I was surprised to hear that it is not only edible but also full of health benefits. Last week I made paneer at home and was about to through away the liquid when my mother stopped me. She told me not to throw it away but to refrigerate so that we can drink it later. I looked at her trying to figure out if she was pulling my leg or she was serious. My omniscient mum can easily guess what is going through my brain. She assured me that she was not pranking me. She then told me that it is nutritious. She also informed me that I have been drinking this my whole life. She also mentioned that I did not recognize it because she used to flavor it for me. So, in the evening, I tried to drink it in its natural form.
Although it was almost tasteless, with a hint of lemon that I had used to curdle the milk, it was surprisingly refreshing. I added some rose petals and sugar to flavor it. Though it was yummy, I preferred the original taste more. The rose and sugar made the whey taste like any other drink. However, the non-flavored one had a distinct refreshing flavor that I enjoyed.
Mum told me that it enhances one’s digestion and works wonder for people who might be lactose intolerant. What mum told me made me curious. As a result, I started researching it more. I was astonished to read that it is not only full of minerals like potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc but also reduced hunger cravings by 50%. Whey is dried, the resultant powder helps a person recover after exercising. No wonder whey is very popular amongst athletes.
What astounds me is that even though it is common in Indian households, we remain mostly unaware of most of its benefits. Whey is simple to make with zero wastage. The curdled cheese paneer is an excellent source of protein. I believe that whey protein’s rampant commercialization by large corporations has faded the homemade liquid form to the background. We need to bring it back to its former glory.