Panakam or Panagam is an excellent summer drink, a delicious thirst-quencher. It is a traditional South Indian drink, made using simple everyday ingredients. Today, I am going to share with you all our family recipe for Panakam, the way we have always been making it.
What goes into Panakam?
Panakam is basically made with chilled water, sweetened with jaggery. Lemon juice is used to add flavour to the drink, while cardamom and dry ginger powder add the ‘spice’ punch. This makes it a medley of flavours – the sweet balanced by the sour and the slight spiciness.
There are little variations to this basic recipe, small touches added by different people to make the drink extra special. For example, in Karnataka, it is not uncommon to come across finely chopped musk melon in Panakam (called ‘Panaka‘ locally). In Tamilnadu, many households add to the drink a touch of edible camphor and some tulsi leaves.
Here, I have shared the way we prepare Panakam traditionally in our family. You can, of course, always add your own variations. It is a very simple beverage to make, taking bare minutes to put together.
Panagam recipe for Sri Rama Navami
In the South of India, Panakam is a traditional preparation on Ram Navami, considered to be the birthday of Lord Rama, which mostly falls in the month of April. Since the occasion is usually in the peak of summer time, the dishes traditionally prepared as prasadam are those that have a cooling effect on the body – Neer More (salted and spiced watery buttermilk), Pasi Paruppu Kosambari (a salad made using soaked moong dal), and Panakam. Yet another example of the culinary genius of our ancestors, and of how they practised seasonal eating.
In many parts of South India, temporary kiosks are set up by the roadside on Ram Navami day, where people volunteer to distribute Panakam, Neer More and Pasi Parippu Kosambari to passersby.
How we make Panakam
The detailed instructions follow.
Ingredients (serves 4-5):
- 4 cups of water, chilled
- A pinch of salt
- 1 cup of jaggery powder or as needed
- Juice of 1 lemon or as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom (elaichi) powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dry ginger powder (sukku podi)
- A pinch of edible camphor aka pacchai kalpooram (optional)
- 10-12 holy basil (tulsi) leaves
1. Take the water in a large vessel. Add in the salt and jaggery powder. Stir until the jaggery is completely dissolved in the water.
2. Squeeze in the lemon juice.
3. Add in the dry ginger powder.
4. Add in the cardamom powder. Crush the edible camphor crystals well to a fine powder using your hands. If using the edible camphor, add it in at this stage.
5. Tear the holy basil leaves roughly with your hands, and add them to the vessel.
6. Mix everything well together and pour into serving glasses. Your Panakam is ready. Serve immediately.
#RangBirange At Foodie Monday Blog Hop
I am sharing this recipe in association with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop, a group of enthusiastic food bloggers that I am part of. The group members share recipes based on a pre-determined theme, every Monday.
Sasmita of First-Timer Cook suggested the group theme this week – #RangBirange, wherein all of us are showcasing colourful beverages perfect for the upcoming summer months. I thought it was the perfect foil to share our heritage Panakam recipe, also keeping in mind that Sri Rama Navami is just around the corner.
Speaking of summer thirst-quenchers, you should totally check out Sasmita’s Spiced Beetroot Buttermilk and Sparkling Pomegranate Iced Tea. These are my favourites from the excellent collection of recipes on Sasmita’s blog, and I do want to try out these beauties this summer!
Tips & Tricks
1. I have used organic country jaggery here, which is dark brown in colour. The colour of your Panakam will depend upon the colour of the jaggery you use.
2. Make sure the jaggery you use is free of impurities. If there are impurities in the jaggery, do filter the water after it is completely dissolved.
3. Adjust the quantity of lemon juice, dry ginger powder and cardamom powder as per personal taste preferences.
4. I have used water chilled in an earthen pot, here. You may use refrigerated water instead.
5. Do not confuse the edible camphor with the camphor that we use in poojas. The latter is not edible. Edible camphor (pacchai kalpooram in Tamil) comes in small boxes, and is commonly available in Tamilnadu. That’s where I get my supply from. It is typically used in dishes like Sakkarai Pongal, Panchamrutam and Boondi Laddoos.
6. Using the edible camphor is optional, but it is highly recommended. It adds a divine smell to the panakam. However, please remember that it is quite strong and just a pinch should be used. Using it in a larger quantity can be overpowering.
7. This is a vegetarian, dairy-free, vegan beverage that is suited to those following a plant-based diet. It is completely gluten-free and free of refined sugar too.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!