Ghee or clarified butter is a big part of South Asian cuisine. It has such amazing flavor that a little goes a long way. I’ve tried making ghee at home but it never seems to taste or smell like the amazing stuff we get back home (meaning the “homeland” of course). In Bangladesh, there is a famous brand called “Baghabari Ghee” with a picture of a Royal Bengal Tiger on the label. It’s famous flavor is renowned . Every time I went home for a visit I would try to sneak a few jars of the stuff back with me. I even tried to bribe my relatives who were going home to get me some ghee. They would look at me in disbelief. Really of all the things I could request someone bring back on a long journey and it’s ghee? That’s a foodie for you. I’m well-known for trying to schlep food in luggage. One time I had curried Hilsa fish in my carry-on luggage (this was before the TSA liquid restrictions) and it exploded all over everything. The WHOLE plane smelled like Bengali Hilsa Fish. I tried to look innocent and blend, which is hard to do on a flight from Los Angeles to Boise, Idaho because I was the only brown person on the plane. Flight attendants were walking back and forth sniffing the air and saying things like, “do you smell that?” or “what is that smell?”
For years, my attempts at making ghee seemed a waste of time since I couldn’t tell the difference between the ghee or just regular butter. Why bother if the flavor is not improved? The whole idea behind a good ghee is to remove the milk protein from the butter leaving behind a nutty unclouded liquid. My problem was that I was not heating it long enough at a low enough temperature. The trick here is to use a heavy bottomed pan like a cast iron dutch oven or something similar and heat the butter for 20-30 minutes and to add curry leaves halfway through the process. It’s also important NOT to stir the melted butter but to let it simmer unaided. This helps to separate the milk proteins properly. The curry leaves add a depth of flavor that I was missing all these years. I have to say that this ghee smells and tastes even better than the famous “Baghabari Ghee”. That’s one less thing that I have to hide in my luggage.
How to make Ghee
1 pound unsalted butter
4-5 curry leaves
In a heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and let it simmer over very low heat. Do not stir but keep an eye on the butter, when small brown chunks begin to appear on the bottom of the pan and the top part of the butter looks pretty clear (about 10-15 minutes) add curry leaves and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. When the top layer of butter looks light brown and very clear, take out the curry leaves and strain ghee through a fine mesh strainer into a mason jar. Don’t throw away the brown protein bits. Save them to make Ghee Laddoos, a sweet treat made with the leftover protein (we don’t like to throw anything away).
1/4 cup chickpea flour (besan)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
In the same pan the ghee was made, heat the browned leftover milk protein with 1/4 cup chickpea flour (Besan) and 1/4 cup of All-Purpose flour and 1/4 cup sugar. Cook over medium heat until everything is a nutty brown color and the sugar has incorporated well. Roll into small balls and enjoy.