Serious Eats: Drinks
From the Blender: Neer More, the South Indian Food Coma Cure-All
When you're deep in the clutches of a food coma, the two most commonly-offered cures for relief—tea and coffee—don't do much good. They're stimulants, not digestive aids, and in my case, a cup of tea after a heavy meal makes me sleepier than I was to begin with.
No, to get the juices going and to get you back on your feet, you need something refreshing and intense. A little spice maybe, or some ginger. Some tang perhaps. This is where neer more comes in.
Though South Indian neer more is traditionally drunk in the sweltering heat as a palate cleanser, it's just the thing to follow up a winter meal heavy on carbs and protein. At its simplest, neer more (which translates from Tamil as "water buttermilk") is just water, buttermilk or yogurt, and salt, but common add-ins include lemon juice, spices like asafoetida, dried or fresh chilies, and herbs like cilantro and mint. Savory, spicy, and tangy, with a verve that's vaguely medicinal, it's everything you need to counteract the carbfest that got you here in the first place.
Some versions of the drink also involve a "temper," a small quantity of spices toasted in oil and poured on top of a dish right before serving. I'm partial to a temper of mustard seeds and curry leaves—two essential flavors in the South Indian culinary repertoire—but you can customize a neer more with whatever flavors you like. Just remember: spicy, grassy, pungent, and refreshing. These are the notes you want to hit.
I build my neer more in a blender so the herbs and spices get a chance to fully integrate into the liquid—and to develop a generous frothy head on top. I add a bit of cooling cilantro, fresh green chili and raw ginger for heat, and a dash of asafoetida for a base pungency. Then, right before I'm ready to pour it into glasses, in goes the temper.
The result is something like a smoothie but way lighter, with a little spice to tickle your lips and a clean, crisp grassy flavor. Nibble on the mustard seeds and ginger pulp as you drink your way down, but leave the curry leaves alone—like bay leaves, they're only technically edible.
Most of the ingredients for this drink can be found in any supermarket, but you'll likely have to seek out asafoetida and curry leaves at an Indian grocery. Asafoetida, also known as hing, will last for years in your pantry, but fresh curry leaves are far more perishable, so pat your extras dry, seal them up in a ziploc bag, suck out the air, and keep them in the freezer until you need them again. For your next case of the meat sweats, of course.