Bhang ki Chutney – Hemp seed chutney

bhang seeds2
Roasting bhang (hemp) seeds

I learned about this very intriguing ingredient only recently, on a work trip to Pithoragarh, Uttarakahand, two years back. I too wanted to know how much of a buzz it was going to provide. While it is borne on a plant more famous for its associations with the hallucinogen marijuana, the seeds are not psychoactive. They are, in fact, a commonplace pantry ingredient in the mountains.

The hemp plant, domesticated in China as far back as 2800 BC, is quite the wonder-crop and can be used to make rope, paper, fabric, biodegradable plastics, and even construction material. Did you know that the word ‘canvas’ is derived from cannabis? In the 17C and 18C it was a very popular crop, even mandatory in many states of the United States. In 1794 George Washington recommended, “Make the most you can of the hemp seed and grow it everywhere.” Till 1985 India had no narcotics policy. The NDPS Act enacted in 1985 under pressure from the USA still includes within it a special provision relating to cannabis that allows its cultivation for industrial purposes and for obtaining seeds.

Some people will warn you against eating it while others will tell you that it is another superfood that has all the 20 amino acids we need, in addition to the right mix of the fatty acids. But, if there is one thing I know about the magical properties of food it is that we don’t really know enough. We are only beginning to scratch the surface on how our health is tied to food and nutrition, hardly enough to make the kind of claims that science so frequently does. Just look at how we have flip-flopped over the last half-century on carbohydrates and fats. Unfortunately, in India too we have started to over-analyse our food, breaking it up into its constituent nutrients in an attempt to eat healthy. It seems to be a losing battle. I wish it wasn’t a battle at all.

I’m glad we had that poori-party when we did! All that frying, as it turns out, was not such a bad idea at all! I even went so far as to say I needed to eat more red meat! “Because food is not just fuel for the body, it is nourishment for the soul.

With the bhang seeds too, my approach is similar. My interest is not in climbing on to the superfood bandwagon by stuffing myself with an ingredient that seems to check off on so many desirable nutritional attributes but in learning about a new aspect of the myriad cuisines that surround me in this land. When I look at the nutritional profile of an ingredient, it is to understand how much sense its inclusion makes in a traditional diet. The fact that 100gms of the seeds can provide 75% of the daily protein requirement does not mean I will serve myself a bowl-full or put it on top of every other food I eat from now on. Instead I will appreciate that it is considered a ‘warming’ ingredient to be consumed in small quantities. A chutney is a good way to do just that.

bhnag seed chutney

Bhang seeds have a coarse hull and, as far as I know, they are not available de-hulled. The thin, watery chutney that I was served with radish batons at a roadside stall on way to Pithoragarh was made with the whole seeds, hulls and all. Some recipes call for straining the finished chutney to remove the hull-bits but that’s just too much trouble. I used a sill-batta (flat stone grinder) this time which did a better job at grinding the hulls fine enough for them to not be bothersome.

The recipe is just a guide and you may add or drop ingredients and adjust the consistency to your taste; fresh herbs are entirely optional. Roasted bhang seeds when crushed release an aroma very similar to that of roasted sesame seeds. The nutty chutney reminds me of Kashmiri walnut chutney (again, made only in winters) and which, perhaps, is why I used yogurt the first time I made it.

bhnag seed chutney2
Bhang ki Chutney

Bhang ki Chutney
Hemp-seed Chutney

1/4 C bhang seeds (hemp seeds)
2-3 fresh hot red or green chillies, I used both (or use dried ones or red chilli powder)
coriander and mint leaves, chopped (1/2 C or to taste)
juice of half a lime (or a souring agent of your choice)

Roast bhang seeds in an iron skillet till they crackle and pop. Pick . Place all your ingredients on the sill-batta, including the seeds that might have popped all around. Grind into a chutney using water as required.

chutney 01
bhang ki chutney, with yogurt

13 thoughts on “Bhang ki Chutney – Hemp seed chutney

  1. yay! I was wondering what to do with all the hemp seeds I’d gotten earlier for another recipe and never used. This chutney sounds a good way of using it up! Thanks!

    And on enjoying my food, one of my favorite cookbooks this year was Alana Chernila’s The Homemade Kitchen, and one of my favorite themes about this book was “I’m done being afraid of my food,” and one of my favorite lines in this theme was “But I think enjoyment might just be a nutrient in itself—in fact, it might be the most important one of all.” Here’s a bit of an excerpt from her book if it sounds interesting:

    That just hits the nail on the head! We are over-thinking food and taking enjoyment out of it. That book there looks interesting from what I see from that link. Thanks for sharing it here, Juhi.

  2. How lovely to see this so called super seed profiled here in such a easy recipe too. Am J that you have a sil batta(or ragda as we call it in Goa). I have been using hemp seeds for a while now to add some much needed protein in my diabetic mum’s morning cereal and even soups and love it because it is a vegetarian source(she’s now vegan mostly due to several issues) and easy to source where I live(in the bay area although a tad expensive for me) and store. But I get a dehulled variety here not the hulled you’ve shown. Would love to get myself some of the hulled type when I’m in India next because it might have a lower GI and more fiber too. Do you have any idea if it is sold in stores in Delhi and if so which ones? Would appreciate the info.

    Loved, loved your writeup on your road trip this year in the U.S. The photos were stunning. I hope you come again soon and this time pass thru the bay area for sure:-)

    Uttarakhans NGO stores might be stocking it. Check at their store at Dastkar and the Navdanya store at Dilli Haat.

    See you in Delhi before I see you in the US! 🙂

  3. Omg I was Wondering this what we do with hemp seeds now you give the idea to make chutney..I Have never used this recipe.. Now I got the Idea..

    You’re welcome, Chirag!

  4. Hi Anita

    Loved your post and such a surprise, hemp seeds in the mountains !!!
    Also it is awesome that you have started cooking workshops. I so wish I could attend.
    Any plans on holding one in mid Jan??
    Let me know if you have a wishlist for anything from Australia.

    I might hold a workshop mid-Jan possibly. I’m trying to work out a schedule where I can do it on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month.

  5. They looked like dhania in the first photo but very different in the third one.

    I find all the information on superfoods and dietary values and stuff very exhausting. I just eat what I fancy. I try new ingredients but if I don’t care for their taste, that’s that. Many of them aren’t available, very expensive if they are, and often, not tasty.

    I just saw a box of mixed seed (sunflower, etc, I guess) labelled as ‘Omega 3 mix’ in the store, laughed to myself and went ahead!

    They are the same colour and size as dhaniya seeds!

    With all this ‘right’ food and ‘wrong’ food, we are forgetting how to enjoy and take pleasure in what we eat! So much effort is going into it and no matter what science comes up with, fast food companies manage to tell us how it is all so ‘healthy’! Atta noodles are a case in point! As if that little bit of fiber is going to redeem the fact that it is highly processed!

  6. This looks delicious Anita. Where do I get the bhangjeera seeds though?

    Check for these at Navdanya stores (there is one at Dilli Haat) or at the permanent Uttarakhand stall at Dastkar. I pick up mine whenever I’m traveling through UT.

  7. Thank you for being the voice of reason, of kindness, of joy. Thanks for your wonderful blog. It’s such a generously shared treasure!

    And I had no idea that hemp was bhang!

  8. Hey! Thanks for featuring this chutney in your blog! 🙂

    Just a small correction in the names of the seeds…Bhang & Bhangjeera are different seed types. And since, we make chutneys of both, Bhang (Hemp) & Bhangjeera (Perilla) seeds in Uttarakhand, understandably, there could be some confusion in distinguishing these two types of seeds.

    Thanks and cheers!

    Thanks! From what I was told Perilla is better known as Bhangeera in Uttarakhand. Are you saying it is also called Bhangjeera? And hemp is called just bhang? If so, I stand corrected!

  9. The famous Japanese spice condiment called “Shichimi” which contains 7 spices, hence the name Shichimi or 7 flavors, includes chili pepper but also interestingly, hemp seeds too!!

    Thanks for that information, Pamela. I will be sure to look up this interesting Japanese spice mix (always on the lookout for a new one!).

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