Shrikhand is a North Indian sweetened yogurt preparation. It is made with drained thick yogurt, sugar and cardamom. Shrikhand has a very creamy texture and can be further flavoured with saffron, fruit like mango, nuts like pistachio and almonds, etc. It is best served chilled. The exact origin of Shrikhand is difficult to pinpoint but it is very popular in Gujarath and Maharashrtra in Western India. It is served at important festive occasions though it is an everyday food as well. Legend says Shrikhand came about when nomadic herdsmen drained yogurt to make it easy to carry with them overnight. The yogurt would have become sour by morning so they mixed in sugar to make it palatable.
According to renowned food historian K. T. Achaya, in his book Indian Food: A Historical Companion, Shrikhand has been known in Gujrathi cuisine as far back as 500BC. To quote from his book, “”To dewater curd, it was hung in a muslin bag for a few hours; sugar and spices added to the mass yielded Shikharini (as modern day Shrikhand was known then)”. He also mentions that Shrikhand was seen in food writings in Kannada from 1025 AD. Supa Shastra by the poet Mangarasa also refers to refers to Shrikhand (1594 AD).
It is interesting to note that a recipe which is so old in origin hasn’t changed very much in the way it is made. It is basically drained thick creamy yogurt sweetened with sugar and lightly flavoured with cardamom. Innovations on this old is only in terms of added flavours, but it is still pretty much the same.
We have a lot of sweets in Indian cuisine but very few are served as standalone desserts as in the west. Shrikhand however can be served as a dessert. It is more famously served together with deep-fried Indian flatbreads called Puris. This creamy, slightly tangy sweet is a firm favourite with all of us, especially my husband and daughter. There is something very addictive about it.
We haven’t had Shrikhand in a while and suddenly were craving some. It is not difficult at all to make and doesn’t require any real technique. You need just three ingredients – thick yogurt, powdered sugar and a little cardamom. You could use Greek yogurt I suppose, but we Indians usually make yogurt at home so that’s what most of use. The thicker your yogurt, the less you lose when you drain out the liquid. Yogurt made with full fat milk will give you a creamier Shrikhand. You can use low fat milk but your yogurt should be thick.
The yogurt needs to be drained for at least 5 to 6 hours. I personally prefer to leave in the fridge overnight to drain. If you choose to flavour your Shrikhand with fruit like mango, strawberry, etc, use thick pulp. Watery fruit pulp will affect the texture and creaminess of your Shrikhand.