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Chai Masala

In this household, we greatly revere the daily cuppa of chai. After years of experimenting with chai masala recipes, I have finally concocted a formula that works, yayayay! So, here it is

5 tbsp dry ginger powder (soonth)
2 tbsp green cardamom
1 tbsp cloves
1 stick cinnamon
2 tbsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tbsp mace (javitri)

Roast the cardamoms (skin on), cloves, cinnamon, and peppercorns until lightly toasted. Once cool, grind the mix to a medium-fine powder. Mix in the dry ginger, nutmeg, and mace. Store in an airtight container.

Note: The cinnamon sticks I have at home measure under 3 inches in length.

A Small Miracle (Really?)

Spelt Cardamom Biscuit

Spelt Cardamom Biscuit + Chai

Almost every friend of mine knows about the deep and abiding love I have for my cup of chai. I even wrote a post about Indian monsoon and chai, complete with a step-wise recipe, pictures, etc.

I like chai the way I make it. So, I am not an addict because it needs to be made very specifically, else I can pass on it. I like my cup of chai made with cow’s milk, two tiny spoons worth of turbinado sugar, grated fresh ginger (organic, Peruvian), fresh mint, tea masala. Not meaning to sound like a snob at all, but a little care and fancy ingredients go a long way when it comes to brewing the perfect sweet, spicy and warm cuppa. Ahh, I am a bad “tea snob” because I didn’t even mention the brand of tea I use. It is Wagh Bakri (translated as “Lion Goat”). Wonder what the logic behind the name is. You can find Wagh Bakri tea in Indian homes and grocery stores.

I loved, loved, loved my evening cup of chai so darned much that I’d morph into an impatient driver each evening as I drove home from work. I’d avoid making a stop anywhere, for anything. The only one thing in my mind was chai. It wasn’t as desperate as I am making it out to be, but I am somewhat close. Not lying at all.

You see, it wasn’t about the chai entirely. It was about the warm, spicy and sweet interplay of flavors. It was about my favorite books lying around the breakfast table that accompanied my quiet time. It was about looking out the window at our wild and lovely backyard, savoring the sunlight streaming in, drinking in my moment of zen (and also the moment I inwardly thanked our childless state).

Lately, I had been wondering if dairy consumption was linked with arthritis and other joint issues. There is published research that supports this viewpoint. I suffer from “creaky” joints, and I feared if they were a precursor to some sort of arthritis. I loved my chai so much; I could give up all dairy if I could stick to that one cup a day. But my doctor suggested that I do a little experiment to verify the facts: Stay off dairy for three months.

So I steeled myself to remove dairy from my life. Cue “mournful expression.”

Well, I am here to tell you that it has been very painless thus far. I have begun making chai with coconut milk, and it works. For me, it does. I haven’t been missing my kind of chai at all. It’s been about ten days, and I think this experiment is going swimmingly well.

What does this mean? Well, if I have the opportunity to partake of a stellar cup of chai (Mumbai Masala, Global Mall does it my style), I will take advantage of it. As for desserts, I am going to play it by ear. Desserts don’t feature often in my life, and if/when a particularly good one comes along, I might indulge myself.

For me, the biggest miracle (my husband doesn’t think it’s anything big) is freeing myself, or realizing that I was always free, of my love (bondage) for chai.

I am free. Perhaps, I always was.

Monsoon and Hot Chai

A Canadian friend of mine remarked, “Indians seem to be very fond of the rains.” I had to agree. Yes, we love our rains. For a country that is scorched by incredibly hot summers, monsoon is a welcome respite. Monsoon and the rains have been immortalized in classical poetry, music, art and literature since centuries. Bollywood has not been behind in adoring the rains as well. There are a million film songs shot in pouring rain (or a sprinkler!). An old classic is “Pyar Hua Ikraar Hua” from Raj Kapoor’s classic ‘Shree 420’ starring Nargis Dutt, Nadira and a host of other stars.

Another more recent “rain song” is a raunchy number “Tip tip barsa pani,” starring the gorgeous Raveena Tandon and hunky Akshay Kumar. The couple sizzles on the screen and the song is hummable too. I am positive the video is out there on YouTube delighting adolescent males everywhere because really, I doubt if that song was meant for any other demographic!

Ok, back to the rains. For so many Indians, a rainy evening implies chai-pakoda! Chai is tea and pakodas are dumplings fried in a batter of chickpea flour ((for want of a better description), spices, salt. Onion pakoras are a hot favorite. All you do is make the batter, dip onion rings in it, drop them into hot oil, fish them out (when done), drain the oil, and dig in. You can do the same using thinly sliced potatoes. In South India, we make bondas. These are essentially cooked and mashed potatoes, made into balls, with salt-spices-cilantro added in. As with onion rings, they get the hot-oil treatment and emerge, shiny and crisp.

Wish I could share some pictures! But I haven’t made these in ages. So I direct you to Kamran’s beautiful website with his pakora recipe and pictures.

But chai? That I can tell you more about!

I would think that each community in India has its favorite drink. I know that in South India, filter coffee enjoys much loyalty. Of course, over the last many years, convenience has made these loyalists to shift to instant coffee. I have fond memories of my Mom’s fabulous coffee served on Sunday mornings replete with a breakfast of idli-chutney and the Sunday papers. The Gujarati community enjoys its tea with masala, sometimes ginger. I make mine with masala (ground with the patient love and skill by my mother-in-law), fresh mint leaves (plucked from my backyard with my own loving hands!), sugar and milk.

Story in pictures (no, they aren’t in order!):

Here are the simple instructions (for a single cup of tea).
1. Boil 1/3 cup of water. Add sugar (to taste), chopped mint leaves, a pinch or two of the masala.
2. As the water boils, add a teaspoon of chai. I use the Lipton brand commonly found in Indian grocery stores.
3. Add milk to taste. I like my tea fairly milky and well-boiled. But this is not everyone’s cup of tea (pun intended). Some people like it with less milk and less-boiled too.

What can I say, I like my style of cuppa the best. As I take the first sip in, I realize why it feels so special. I enjoy tea but really, it has to be done my way… 🙂

Head over to Archana Srinivas’s lovely blog A Cup of Chai for some exquisite pictures of more cups of tea!