Ghee (Hindi: घी ghī, Nepali: घ्यू ghyū,Urdu: گھی ghī, Bangla: ঘী ghī, Marathi: Toop (तूप), Kannada: ತುಪ್ಪ tuppa, Tamil: நெய் ney, Telugu: నెయ్యి neyyi, Template:Lang-so) is a class of clarified butter that originated in South Asia, and is commonly used in South Asian (Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani), Middle Eastern (Levantine and Egyptian) and Somali cuisine.
Ghee is made by simmering unsalted butter in a large pot until all water has boiled off and protein has settled to the bottom. The cooked and clarified butter is then spooned off to avoid disturbing the milk solids on the bottom of the pan. Unlike butter, ghee can be stored for extended periods without refrigeration, provided it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation and remains moisture-free. Texture, colour, or taste of ghee depends on the source of the milk from which the butter was made and the extent of boiling. In India, ghee is usually made with water buffalo's milk as it tends to be whiter than cow's milk.
The word ghee comes from Sanskrit ghṛtə घृत ("sprinkled"). It has a sacred role in Vedic and modern Hindu libation and anointment rituals (see Yajurveda). There is also a hymn to ghee. Ghee is also burnt in the Hindu religious ritual of Aarti and is the principal fuel used for the Hindu votive lamp known as the diya or deep. It is used in marriages and funerals, and for bathing murtis during worship.
In other religious observances, such as the prayers to Shiva on Maha Shivaratri, ghee is served along with four other sacred substances: sugar, milk, Dahi or yogurt, and honey which is called the Panchamrut. According to the Mahabharata, ghee is the very root of sacrifice by Bhishma. Also, it is used generously in Homam or Yagna as it is considered as food for Devas.
Usage in food
Ghee is widely used in Indian Cooking. In many parts of India, especially in Bengal and Orissa, rice is always served with ghee; includes Biryani. Ghee is an ingredient as well as used in the preparation of kadhi. Punjabi cuisine prepared in restaurants use large amounts of ghee. Masala is made by the combination of spices with ghee. Naan and roti are brushed with ghee either during preparation or while serving.
Ghee is used in Indian sweets such as Mysore Pak, and different varieties of halva and laddu. It is observed in the case of such sweets that the flavor and aroma obtained is entirely different when ghee is used, and will be much superior all other kinds of fat/oil.
Ghee is also used in the middle east and north Africa in the savoury dishes
Nutrition and health concerns
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Like any clarified butter, ghee is composed almost entirely of saturated fat. Ghee has been shown to reduce serum cholesterol in one rodent study. Studies in Wistar rats have revealed one mechanism by which ghee reduces plasma LDL cholesterol. This action is mediated by an increased secretion of biliary lipids. The nutrition facts label found on bottled cow's ghee produced in the USA indicates 8 mg of cholesterol per teaspoon.
Indian restaurants and some households may use hydrogenated vegetable oil (also known as vanaspati, Dalda, or "vegetable ghee") in place of ghee for economic reasons. This "vegetable ghee" is actually polyunsaturated or monounsaturated partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, a trans fat. Trans fats are increasingly linked to serious chronic health conditions. Not only is "vegetable ghee" implicated in causing high LDL (In a 2007 animal study, South African scientists found consumption of red palm oil significantly protected the heart from the adverse effects of a high-cholesterol diet. - from Palm Oil). The term Shuddh Ghee, however, is not officially enforced in many regions, so partially hydrogenated oils are marketed as Pure Ghee in some areas. Where this is illegal in India, law-enforcement often cracks down on the sale of fake ghee. Ghee is also sometimes called desi (country-made) ghee or asli (genuine) ghee to distinguish it from "vegetable ghee".
When cooking, it can be unhealthy to heat polyunsaturated oils such as vegetable oils to high temperatures. Doing so creates peroxides and other free radicals. These substances lead to a variety of health problems and diseases. On the other hand, ghee has a very high smoke point and doesn't burn or smoke easily during cooking. Because ghee has the more stable saturated bonds (i.e., it lacks double bonds which are easily damaged by heat) it is not as likely to form dangerous free radicals or advanced glycation endproducts when cooking.
Ghee's short chain fatty acids are also metabolized very readily by the body, which would seem to negate concerns of its health effects. However, there is significant controversy between traditional oils and modern industrially processed oils which tends to heavily cloud the facts and issues surrounding oil consumption.
Several cultures make ghee outside of India. Egyptians make a product called سمنة بلدي (samna baladi, literally meaning "local ghee"; i.e. Egyptian ghee) virtually identical to ghee in terms of process and end result. In Ethiopia, niter kibbeh (Amharic: ንጥር ቅቤ niṭer ḳibē) is made and used in much the same way as ghee, but with spices added during the process that result in a distinctive taste. Moroccans (especially Berbers) take this one step further, aging spiced ghee in the ground for months or even years, resulting in a product called smen. In Northeastern Brazil, a non-refrigerated butter very similar to ghee, called manteiga-de-garrafa (Butter-in-a-bottle) or manteiga-da-terra (Butter of the land), is common. In Europe, it is also widely used. For example, Wiener Schnitzel is traditionally fried in a version of ghee called Butterschmalz.
- "Ghee -- Indian clarified butter". food-india.com. http://www.food-india.com/ingredients/i001_i025/i007.htm. Retrieved 2007-01-13.
- [Language and Style of the Vedic Rsis, Tatyana Jakovlevna Elizarenkova (C) 1995, p. 18.]
- Matam Vijaya Kumara; Kari Sambaiaha; Belur R. Lokesh (February 2000). "Hypocholesterolemic effect of anhydrous milk fat ghee is mediated by increasing the secretion of biliary lipids". The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 11 (2): 69–75. doi:10.1016/S0955-2863(99)00072-8.
- Kruger, MJ; Engelbrecht, AM; Esterhuyse, J; Du Toit, EF; Van Rooyen, J (2007). "Dietary red palm oil reduces ischaemia-reperfusion injury in rats fed a hypercholesterolaemic diet.". The British journal of nutrition 97 (4): 653–60. doi:10.1017/S0007114507658991. PMID 17349077.
- "Sellers of fake ghee booked in Hyderabad". hindu.com. http://www.hindu.com/2006/02/22/stories/2006022219340300.htm. Retrieved 2007-03-03.
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- Articles on ghee from Indian Foods Company: http://indianfoodsco.com/Submit/Ghee.htm (commercial site)
- Articles on ghee from Ancient Organics: http://www.ancientorganics.com/articles.htm (commercial site)
- Health Benefits of Ghee, Organic Clarified Butter: http://www.yoghee.com/benefits.html (commercial site)
- Table comparing various commercially available ghee products: http://blog.freeradicalfederation.com/archive/2006/07/25/Ghee_Comparison_Table.aspx (non commercial site)
- Article on Ghee vs. Butter: http://www.pureindianfoods.com/ghee_vs_butter.shtml (commercial site)
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