What in the world is Ghee?

Dosa (rice pancake) with a cup of ghee (clarified butter) at Mavalli Tiffin Room in Bangalore. (Wikimedia)

What in the world is ghee? Perhaps, you’ve heard about it in passing but never took the time to find out. Well, just sit back and  let MCCN give you a few facts on the subject.  Ghee is a form of clarified butter originally from South Asia used in Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepali and Pakistani cuisines. It is made by simmering unsalted butter in a cooking vessel until all the water has boiled off, the milk solids (milk proteins) have settled to the bottom, and a froth has floated on top.

The foamy and watery froth is then removed and the clarified butter is spooned out as not to disturb the milk solids that have settled on the bottom. Chefs often use the clarified butter because it does not burn down. Refrigeration is not required as long as as it is kept in an air tight container. It must be kept dry…so even dipping a wet spoon in ghee can cause oxidation.

What foods are cooked with ghee? Well, it is a staple in the Indian culture when cooking rice and biryani dishes. Naan and roti are also brushed with ghee, and  the clarified butter is also used in making many desserts. If you think that South Asia has a lock on ghee, you are mistaken. Other countries which use their own form of ghee include Egypt, which has a very similar process; Ethiopia, also uses a similar process except spices are added during the process that result in a distinctive taste, and Brazil uses an unrefrigerated butter very similar to ghee  called manteiga-de-garrafa (butter-in-a-bottle) or manteiga-da-terra (butter of the land). Morocco has a very unique process in making their clarified butter, aging spiced ghee in the ground for months or even years, resulting in a product called smen.

Ghee is very high in Vitamin A and Vitamin D content. It can be supportive for eye and bone health and helps the absorption of not only vitamins and minerals but also phytonutrients. The downside to ghee is it  contains a approximately 14 grams of fat per tablespoon, so moderation is the key when using as ingredient or using directly on your food.

The Benefits of Ghee

1.  Ghee stimulates the digestion (Agni) better than any other oil.

2.  Ghee has a high smoking point and is excellent for frying unlike vegetable oils

3.  Ghee increases the medicinal properties of spices when spices are sautéed in ghee

4.  Ghee is said to be more alkaline than other oils and resulting in a smoother skin tone and makes one look younger

5. One needs less ghee (half or two-thirds) as compared to oil to achieve the same goals.

6  Ghee balances both Vata (the Ayurvedic mind/body operator that controls movement in mind and body) and Pitta (the operator that controls heat and metabolism).

7.  Like aloe, ghee is said to prevent blisters and scarring if applied quickly to affected skin.

8. A high concentration of butyric acid, a fatty acid that contains anti-viral properties, is believed to inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors.

Information obtained from: Wikipedia, Associated Content and Indian Foods Co.