In the serene Kashmir Valley, a timeless tradition unfolds each winter—the cherished ritual of enjoying Makkai Sout (Sattu) with traditional Nun Chai. This age-old custom not only warms the body but also holds the essence of cultural heritage. Makkai Sout (also spelt as Makkie Saet), a delicacy unique to Kashmiri culture, traces its roots to a bygone era. The process begins with carefully collected maize seeds, chosen for their rich flavor and warmth-inducing properties. These maize seeds later undergo a fascinating transformation before they find their place beside a steaming cup of salted tea. Traditionally, these seeds are partially burnt, imparting a distinct smokiness that adds depth to the overall flavor. This meticulous preparation sets Makkai Sout (roasted corn flour) apart, making it a quintessential winter treat.
Once maize seeds are ready, they embark on a journey to the heart of Kashmiri stone-mills—the traditional flour mills known as Grutte (can be both Ath-e-Grutte and Aab-e-Grutte). Here, the seeds are expertly pulverized, creating coarse, aromatic flour that becomes the soul of Makkai Sout. The Grutte, with its creaking wooden wheels and weathered stones, stands as a symbol of continuity. Generations have relied on this humble mill to transform raw ingredients into the sustenance that warms their homes during the winter months. The rhythmic sound of the Grutte echoes through time, connecting the present to the past.
As winter chill grips the Valley, the union of Makkai Sout and salted tea becomes a ritual of comfort. The coarse texture of sattu flour complements the smoothness of Kashmiri tea, creating a symphony of flavors that lingers on the palate. This pairing is more than sustenance; it is an experience that transcends generations.
Beyond individual households, Makkai Sout holds a special culinary place in communal gatherings, festivals, and weddings. In fact, gatherings are incomplete without the warmth of Makkai Sout shared among friends and family. It serves not just as a dish but as a vessel for the bonds that tie the Kashmiri people together.
While the essence of Makkai Sout remains untouched by time, modernity has brought subtle changes. Electric mills may hum in place of the traditional Ath-e-Grutte or Aab-e-Grutte, and the art of preparation might be expedited, but the core sentiment remains intact—a connection to heritage and a celebration of winter’s embrace.
In every bite of Makkia Sout, there is a tale — a tale of resilience, tradition, and the enduring spirit of Kashmir’s culinary delights. As the seasons change, and the snow blankets the landscape, the aroma of Makkai Sout with tea continues to weave its way into the fabric of Kashmiri life, ensuring that this winter tradition remains a timeless chapter in the story of people.
I recall, the tradition of relishing Makkai Sout with Nun Chai in our village would start, soon winter would set in. People would roast maize in clay-made pans on the traditional Dambur (Chulha) which was later either pulverized at home on traditional Aeth-e-Gratte or was taken to the watermill available in the vicinities those days. My mother would roast a sufficient quantity of maize on Chulha (hearth) and then send it to the near by water-mill for having Makkai Sout.
In our vicinity, there was only one watermill in Yarbug village which was some 3 kilometers away from our home where during winters; queues of customers would wait to get their maize milled out. Sitting around the traditional wicker basket, locally known as Lungoen and filling up Pheran (traditional loose attire in winter) pockets with roasted maize, stealthily, was undoubtedly a rich experience I often cherish.
Once maize sattu was obtained from this water-mill, it was sieved at home to get the impurities removed. Some part of it was distributed among the neighbors and relatives. The refined part of it was collected, and then homemade ghee was mixed with it to become much tastier.
Served mostly with breakfast and afternoon Nun Chai in Kashmir, it also tastes yummy when taken with Kashmiri Kehwa (infusion made with, range of spices including saffron, sliced almonds, cinnamon and cardamom, etc.) But how sad! The tradition of using it seems to have been ignored nowadays, only because the social position of people has considerably improved in recent years as a result of education.
Compared to other types of home-made sattu, Makkai Sout was famous in every household once. As a traditional protein-rich superfood packed with amazing health benefits like high in fiber, nutritious, having low glycemic index, rich in minerals, unadulterated and good for digestion, it is now offered in variety in markets. However, the traditional type tastes delectable and is free from preservatives. It is nutrient-dense, simple to be made at home. Let’s preserve this tradition.
Manzoor Akash is a regular GK contributor from Rafiabad