Healthful Sattoo of the Terai

Food Issue 175 Jun, 2016

There is one distinctive food in the Terai that is truly healthful, and it’s called ‘sattoo’. 

The people of the Terai (lowlands) are a hardworking lot, most of whom work in the fields all day long in the sweltering heat of a blazing sun. The Terai is the granary of the country, producing a wide variety of foodstuff. However, due to lack of proper irrigation facilities, the farming is almost completely dependent on nature and a copious monsoon every year. All in all, due to this hurdle and the hot climate, the Terai farmers have to really sweat it out, toiling daily to make their fields more fertile and productive, and therefore, it is a given that they need to be adequately nourished and hydrated. 

While bhaat, daal, and tarkari (steamed rice, lentil soup, and vegetable curry) is the staple meal, as elsewhere in Nepal, there are slight variations, as well. For instance, the Terai folk love their spices, and like to munch on chilies and gnaw on a couple of raw onions along with their meals. Their curries are liable to be really hot, not to mention the pickles! Can’t say how nutritious the chilies are, but some say that raw onion is supposed to prevent prickly heat. 

It is also an ironical fact that even though they are the providers of foodstuff throughout the country, many of them are so poor that they often have to do with just steamed rice, accompanied by chilies and salt, to fill their stomachs. Why this is so, is a question best answered by socio-economic experts. Suffice it to say that many of these hardworking folk aren’t as well nourished as they should be.

At the same time, there is one distinctive food in the Terai that is truly healthful, and it’s called ‘sattoo’.  It’s made from maize, soybean, and gram, and thus is rich in protein content. You can eat it either in its dry form, or as a paste made by mixing it with water and seasoning with some salt. You can also have it as a refreshing drink, in which case, you mix it with water, lime juice, and a little salt. I can vouch that it is one of the most wholesome and invigorating drinks one can have anywhere, especially on a hot sweaty day, when the body is crying out for healthy hydration. Sattoo could be said to be one of the most popular foods of the Terai.    

Like others elsewhere, the hardworking Terai folk also like to live it up a little now and then; and this they do by indulging in some fiery indigenous Terai drinks. The juice of a flower called Mahuwa (maduca indica) is the source from which a popular alcoholic drink called mahuwa raksi is distilled. One can get pretty high after a couple of glasses. Another great drink is toddy, which is a naturally fermented alcohol derived from the sap of palm trees. You’ll find plenty of folks indulging in these drinks during celebratory occasions. 

All said and done, the cuisine of the Terai is not something that could be said to be special gastronomic fare, but considering that the people seem to have plenty of energy to do all that hard agricultural work, one must say that whatever they do have appears to be adequate for their particular needs.