More on Tayir, Dahi, Mosaru, or Perugu

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

The write up in the last issue for making authentic tayir (dahi, mosaru, or perugu) had surprising reader responses. It was a good point for conversation for me with friends in social gatherings, much to the chagrin of my wife. More importantly, I received e-mails from readers enquiring how they can get the starter tayir. A couple of them even came to my place to get the starter tayir. They made the original stuff at home, carefully following the instructions. They were pleased with the outcome.

One reader from the American mainstream was surprised that it is so easy to make this at home. She commented that the one she made at home tasted much better than the standard Dannon fare from grocery stores.

By now, tayir and its other Indian variants are common words for our readers. So I will no more italicize them going forward.

One reader was so impressed with the tayir he made at home that he enquired the shelf-life of the starter tayir, if he goes on vacation. As a matter of fact, I was away for 2 weeks in July-August. I kept the starter tayir in a small container in the refrigerator, making sure that the starter tayir is filled to the brim of a container, and the container was closed with an air-tight lid. When I returned from my vacation, the starter tayir was well preserved in its original condition. When I made a fresh batch of tayir, it came out just perfect. Note: If the container is partially filled and closed with a lid, the trapped air in the container may spoil the starter tayir.

Usha Gowda of Monroeville, who is originally from Karnataka, is one of my friends. She suggested this improvement for making mosaru (the Kannada term for tayir): After adding the starter stuff to the milk that is boiled-and-cooled to room temperature, put a small piece of dry red chilly into the vessel and gently stir it and let it sit. Some phytochemical in the red chilly accelerates the fermentation and the mosaru is ready in 5 to 6 hours; it sets also a little thicker, and slices better. Indian green chilly also works just fine.

Finally, an e-mail came from my demanding English teacher at the engineering school where I took a course in writing at the behest of my professor. I am eternally thankful to him for asking me to take the course, and to the demanding teacher for sensitizing me to the nuances of writing for different audiences. She, now in retirement, is in our mailing list. I am one student of hers, maybe her only student, to edit and publish a community magazine. She enjoyed the tayir story, which made her recall her rips to India decades ago.  Her letter appears on the next page.

Separately, very perceptively, she also said this: Regarding your comment about the tayir starter, yes, the difference in yogurts around the world is always in the starter. Someone should do a study about the role that plays in a country’s food culture and unique gestalt of each cuisine!

Note: gestalt, a German word, refers to something that is made of many parts and yet is somehow more than or different from the combination of its parts; broadly, the general quality or character of something.

A Letter to the Editor On the Story on Tayir

Dear Editor Venkat:

Enjoyed your article on your adventures making tayir. I have always regretted not getting to Kerala during the time I spent in India in 1970 — but I did travel in the eastern portion of South India.

I loved, loved, loved the dosas and also idlis with coconut chutney. Also, the curries served on a banana leaf. The only reprise of any of these I’ve encountered was in Berkeley in the late 1970s or early 1980s when a tiny grandmother made fantastic dosas in a tiny restaurant space in an arcade of many small shops and eateries. Heavenly … … as long as it lasted. No idlis, though. So your article brought all this back. Lovely memories.

Best wishes,

Charlene Spretnak, Professor Emerita, Ojai, California   ♣

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