All Things Chai…

Chai for me is to be enjoyed on its own. Simple. No food required. I often long for a ‘dhaba’ (roadside restaurant) style desi (with reference to all things South Asian) chai. The last time I enjoyed the authenticity of sitting by a roadside kiosk at dusk, sipping a hot, sweet masala chai, was during one of my rare visits to Bangladesh – a place where I spent a good part of my childhood. Sadly, most restaurants in London will not serve a tea without a meal…unlike our coffee shops. So whilst my day always starts with a desi cardamom chai, when out and about, like a bee to drawn to nectar, I find myself in my favourite coffee shop ordering a “Grande Soya Chai Tea Latte, extra chai, no water” – a bit of a mouthful but certainly worth the effort. Worth noting: The soya lends a creamy sweetness which I find lacking in the dairy version. However, during a recent visit to a well known curry house, I was blown away by the luscious Kashmiri Chai served, on request, BEFORE my meal. Now let me tell you a little about this beverage. Kashmiri Chai, otherwise know as Sheer Chai or Pink Tea is a traditional Kashmiri drink brewed from special tea leaves and served with cardamom, pistachios and almonds served as a warming beverage during the cold winter months in India and Pakistan; also enjoyed during festivities and celebrations. It’s characteristic pink colour is achieved by adding a pinch of baking soda. Not wanting to go out for a full blown meal, but longing to indulge in this very superior version of chai, I took to the stove with a zealous determination to recreate the magic of Kashmir in my South West London home kitchen, albeit a lower fat rendition.

Image Cooking Time: approx. 1-2 hours
Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tbl kashmiri or green tea leaves
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup half fat milk
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup half fat evaporated milk (opional)
  • 10-12 cardamon pods, split and used whole or seeds crushed
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • pinch of ground pistachios (optional)
  • pinch of ground almonds (optional)

How to brew

  1. Bring 2 cup of water to boil.
  2. Add the tea leaves and bring to boil.
  3. Cover and simmer for 60-90 minutes until the liquid turns a reddish colour.
  4. Add the baking soda and shake, then bring back to boil.
  5. Add the another cup of water (preferably chilled), pouring it in from a height.
  6. Shift the liquid between the pan and another pan or jug, by pouring the liquid from a height from one to the other – this process enhances the flavour and pink colour.
  7. Return to boil.
  8. Strain the liquid and return to the pan.
  9. Bring back to boil and add the milk and sugar.
  10. Gently bring to boil and simmer for 5 mins.
  11. Pour in the evaporated milk (if using) and again bring to boil and simmer for 1-2 mins.
  12. Pour into your favourite chai mugs and top with crushed nuts if desired.
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