I discovered this drink many years ago at Murugan Idli Shop at their North Usman Road branch in Chennai. It had a stall outside the restaurant selling Jigarthanda. This was the first time I had come across this drink and it’s unusual name piqued my interest. Jigarthanda originated in Madurai and is popularly known as Jil Jil Jigarthanda. Jigar literally translates as liver in Urdu / Hindi, but is also used as a poetic emotion to describe either courage or something beloved or close to ones heart. That’s why the word Jigar is confused with heart, but actually means liver. Whether Jigarthanda cools the ‘heart’, gives you courage, good for the liver or you need some amount of courage to drink it. The meaning of the name is up for discussion 😊
The first time I had the Jigarthanda at Murugan Idli Shop, I found it so tasty that I ordered another one. Big mistake! The stuff is heavy and goes and sits in the bottom of your stomach. The drink is similar to a milk shake with a scoop of ice cream on top. Chilled milk is churned with condensed milk, Badam pisin (gum from the sweet almond tree) and Nannari syrup (made from the root of the Indian Sarsaparilla). Both badam pisin and nannari are known to be cooling agents and used extensively in Ayurveda. The drink is delicious, but needs to be made with the right ingredients. Many roadside vendors substitute badam Pisin with agar, but the result’s not the same.
In Madurai, Famous Jigarthanda is one of the oldest shops selling the drink and is believed to have brought the drink to Madurai and is now a big chain with multiple outlets.
Click here for the recipe on how to make Jigarthanda at home. When in Chennai, you must try the drink at Murugan Idli Shop and at Famous Jigarthanda when in Madurai.
Happy hunting and chowder-on!