Chhang: The Beer of the Himalayas
Local tipples or alcoholic brews are common across India but one of the most popular and widespread one has to be the Chhang. Widely consumed across the Himalayan settlements from Tibet, to Nepal and Sikkim, the millet based Chhang has an interesting local legend behind it.
– The millet-based Chhang has an interesting local legend behind it
The local Lepcha community of Sikkim calls the drink Chi and offers it to their deities during most of their religious ceremonies. Legend has it that a local Lepcha family sent a cockroach to steal yeast to ferment Changg from Matli Mu, the Goddess of earthquakes & wine. Angered by this act, she cursed that anyone who drinks Changg will yearn for more. The prophecy holds good, even today…
So what’s the recipe for Chhang? The drink is made from finger millets, which are boiled, dried into cakes and fermented for a couple of months. The fermented grains are served in a bamboo jar which is filled up to the brim. It is consumed by adding warm water into it from time to time, making the drink perfect in harsh winters! Chhang tastes like ale and warms up the body.
Its no wonder then that the drink is so popular across the Himalayan states
– Legend has it that a local Lepcha family sent a cockroach to steal yeast for Changg from Matli Mu
In Nepal, Chhang is known as 'Tongba' among the Limbu people of eastern Nepal. The Limbu’s are a community of Tibetan origin, who share a lot of customs and traditions with the communities in Sikkim and Bhutan, including the tradition of offering this fermented beverage as a welcome drink. In Ladakh, Chhang is an indispensable part of the wedding festivities, and is offered to wedding guests. In Spiti valley, it is also given as an offerings to the gods
Chhang - is not just the favourite brew but it has also been an indispensable part of everyday life across a vast swathe from Ladakh to the North to Arunachal Pradesh in the East for centuries. No wonder it is the 'Beer of the Himalayas’ - one with the mountains, where the millets grow!
– Did You Know
There is a Tongba chowk or square named after the drink in Dhankuta in Nepal, with a larger-than-life statue of the bamboo mug and straw it’s served in!