Sikkim’s traditional millet beer “Chang”
Sikkim is incredible, just like its “Chang” beer.
It is always the traditional and original food and drinks that bring people closer together, and only with a good meal can you really get to know a country and its culture. It’s the same in India.
I still remember the funny conversations I had with the local people about “Chang”. Until my last day in Sikkim, I enjoyed the delicious and typical dishes of the local restaurants (like momos, thupkas or my favorite, the Nepalese curry) with an enchanting chang.
The type of Chang beer I learned about from my friends is actually called Tongba. It is named after the vessel in which the fermented drink is brewed. Chang beer is millet beer and is made from the seeds of millet. The correct scientific name of millet is “Eleusine Coracana“.
First, the seeds are boiled in hot water for about 2-3 hours. The seeds remain in the water until the shell comes off easily.
The shells are then sorted out. The remaining seeds are collected, boiled again and then spread out on a clean surface or collected in a woven bamboo basket. The seeds must now cool there.
Murcha, (a mixture of bacteria and yeast needed for fermentation) is then sprinkled on the seeds and mixed well with the cooked millet. This mixture is then sealed in a cauldron or ceramic pot for at least 4 days. Fermentation can influence the strength of the beer. The longer the mixture of millet and murcha remains sealed, the stronger the chang will be. When your “Chang” is ready, you will clearly notice the smell of fermentation!
In addition to the beguiling taste of “Chang”, there is something else that makes the beer so special. The unusual way in which Chang beer is drunk:
Locals drink “chang” from a bamboo container, also known as a “tongba” or “dungro”. They use a special bamboo straw as a kind of filter. With its perforated end, you only get to drink the filtered drink through the straw (or pipsey). Make sure you try it out. You will agree that it is something very special to drink such a freshly fermented beer.
In Sikkim, millet beer is also often used as an offering to the gods.
So before you try your first sip of Chang beer, traditionally offer the first drop to the gods!
At the Bamboo Retreat Hotel, we are happy to organize tours to original villages in India in cooperation with terralaya.com. Our guests taste the traditionally brewed Chang beer and learn how to drink from the Tongba. Only natural ingredients are used in the villages and the beer is served in the traditional way.