I Need A Good Cuppa CHAI

August 11, 2009

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The last two days have been fairly typical of our crazy home and life...

 

As we speak, Sandeep is upstairs with the plunger in the girls' bathroom. Apparently Neha's last masterpiece was the last straw for our overworked toilet. It swelled to the point of overflowing but THANK THE LORD no water hit the ground. I put the lid down and ran downstairs as fast as I could.

But not before checking on the four new additions to our family. Their names? Raju, Kaju (which means cashew in Hindi), Dadoo (which means frog), and Fluffy (who is the girls' puppy in India who they've been told is waiting for a passport to fly to Chicago). These are our new FISH. So far, they are alive. It's been one full day. We're doing great.

The dead bird the girls found in the back is safely underground in the front. They insisted I bury it. I was ready to put it into the trash can in the alley. I guess we compromised somewhat. (Oooops Aria just peeded on the floor again upstairs...AFTER Sandeep fixed the toilet. After a quick wipe down - I'm back!) About that bird...Aria wanted to keep it in the house in a jar as a pet. Neha and I finally talked her out of it. There was already a hole in the front where the girls dig for earthworms. So the bird fit right in there.

Well, I'm finally sitting. The girls are finally asleep - Aria safely with a pullup on, and I get to have my Chai. Let me clarify my thoughts on the term itself.

Many of you THINK you know what chai is. You THINK that's what you order when you go to the coffeshop. THINK again. I don't mean to sound angry about this, but it infuriates me that something as amazing and as simple as Chai has been adultrated to the point of ridiculousness here in the States.

I hate. Detest. Want to vomit. When I hear someone at a coffee shop, especially Starbucks, order Chai. I'm not really sure whose idea it was to sweeten black tea to the point of pure syrup, serve it in a cup, charge for it and call it chai. And, as if it couldn't get worse, label it Chai Tea. Folks, Chai actually means tea in Hindi and many other languages. When you say Chai Tea ... you actually sound kind of stupid to someone like me because you're essentially saying "Tea - Tea." Like Ping-Pong, Ding-Dong, Frick-Frack. Those words, though, go together and make sense when used in context. Chai-Tea does not and never will!

Okay. I'm off my soap box, but this has been building up for about ten years now. AND I have no advertisers to appease on this blog nor an editor to censor my truest and most passionate feelings. So, there you have it.

In India, it's common to find Masala Chai. This is just black tea infused with whole spices. The type used varies by households in India. I will post my own favorite. I hope you'll try it or post the special way you make tea in your home.

Growing up, on the weekends it was always my turn to make chai. The problem was that my parents were always up well before me. I was awakened with a ‘tap, tap, tap’ on our adjoining bedroom wall.

Even as early as 7 a.m. the tapping would come. It would start lightly and then gain in speed and intensity. With each tap I’d grow angrier and often would react simply by pulling my comforter over my head and pretending to sleep. Remaining in the small state of denial even for a few minutes empowered my powerless self. The gig was up as soon as I heard dad's voice. “Anupy. Wake up. Make some chai.”

Chai meant everything in our house, especially to my traditional father. It was the first thing that he wanted to drink on weekend mornings, and the experience was made sweeter by the way it was served. He liked to have his kids bring him his chai in bed. All I wanted to do was sleep for an extra hour. But, I was forced to give up that extra sleep to carry on tradition, respect and that caffeine fix.

Despite my resistance to the thought of serving anyone just because it was demanded of me, I made it my mission to learn how to make the best cup of chai on the planet. So I sprinkled and ground my way through the process. I would begin with a small pot and measure 2 1/2 cups of water (meant for three people). That was poured into the pot and set on medium-high. As I waited for a boil, I'd lightly mash by 2 green cardamom pods, a clove or two and a pinch of fennel seed in a miniature, brass mortre and pestle my mother kept in a drawer to the left side of the stove.

Once ground, the mixture was added to the boiling water. Then, came the teabag – one bag per two cups of water was my general rule. If I felt particularly generous, I’d add half a stick of cinnamon and grate half an inch of ginger and throw them into the dark, boiling concoction. Two minutes of boiling and then would come the milk (whole/2 percent/or skim), just enough to make the concoction slightly creamy. Too much milk and the proportion would be off. As the chai came to a full boil it would have to be watched intently lest it overboil.

Once boiled to the top rim of the pot, I’d turn the stove off, fish out the teabag, and put a lid on the pot to allow the intense heat to truly fuse all the flavors. Then, one more boil and I’d pour it into the respective mugs, along with a teaspoon of honey each.

Anupy's Masala Chai
1 1/2 cups water
1 black tea bag
3 small green cardamom
3 cloves
pinch of fennel seed
1 small piece cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon grated ginger
Milk (whole/2 percent/skim)
1/2 teaspoon honey or Agave nectar (love this stuff)

In a small pot, boil water and add teabag.

Lightly crush cardamom, cloves, and fennel seeds. Add to boiling water along with cinnamon and ginger.

Allow to boil until dark brownish black.

Add milk slowly. I don't like to use too much maybe 2 - 3 tablespoons at the most. Some people like their chai light, so they add more milk.

Watch closely as it comes to a boil. It can overflow very easily at this point.

Once it boils, spoon out the teabag and turn the heat off. Put the lid on and let it sit for about 3 minutes.

Take lid off and let it come to another boil. Serve immediately (have a tea strainer handy to hold over the cup while you pour through it to catch any spices). Add honey.

Mom - Dad - We'll finally be in King of Prussia this weekend. The first thing I'm going to do is make you my Chai!

Folks...if you don't think you can follow this recipe, think again. My 4-year-old Aria makes her own masala for chai. Yes, the girls drink it. I figure a tiny bit of caffeine is better than poisoning their little bodies with soda day in and day out!



Anupy Singla
Anupy Singla

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13 Comments

nithya at hungrydesi
nithya at hungrydesi

January 07, 2010

Lol at your rant against "chai tea." What always gets me is people saying "naan bread." Bread bread? Great blog.

luckiest1
luckiest1

January 31, 2010

I make my own chai in the mornings. I learned from an East Indian friend. However I have never used fennel….just green cardamom, cinnamon stick, sometimes I also add star anise, clove or allspice, and black peppercorns. I also like mine quite light, so my ratio of water to milk is about even. So thanks for the tip, I will attempt to use fennel next time and see how it changes the flavour. As for where to buy these spices, they are quite readily available at any 'bulk' type store. We have Bulk Barn in my neck of the woods. Word of warning….cardamom is not cheap!

If I buy chai from Starbuck's (I am out and can't make my own) I tend to order it as a tea misto, meaning they infuse one of their 'tazo chai' tea bags in water, and then add the amount of milk I specify. I can sweeten it on my own. I agree that their 'chai tea latte' is nothing but syrup and milk.

Pallavi
Pallavi

July 14, 2010

Hey Anupy, I discovered your blog today through 101 cookbooks blog. Really cool to see an Indian posting authentic recipes. This one in particular as my reaction to chai-tea is very similar to yours!I will soon try this recipe out!
I have recently started writing a blog on restaurant reviews and recipes. I designed the branding for it and I also take pictures on my own. Please check it out if you can at http://www.indigo-indiaandbeyond.blogspot.com/

Thanks and good luck!

Anonymous
Anonymous

September 19, 2009

Anupy, Where do you recommend getting the green cardamom, cloves, fennel seed, cinnamon sticks and ginger? Yeah, I can google local places, but I'm getting you have a good idea about the best place(s).

Theresa A.
Theresa A.

September 22, 2009

Hello, I am Jenna's mom. She told me about your blog today so I thought I'd come over and take a look. So far I like what I see, and can't wait for more!

Indian As Apple Pie
Indian As Apple Pie

September 23, 2009

Hi Theresa.

Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope that you'll try some of the recipes out at some point. Jenna is really wonderful! I'm glad we've gotten to know one another! -Anupy

Maura Wall Hernandez
Maura Wall Hernandez

August 19, 2009

I am the lucky photographer working with Anupy to get some photos on her blog of all the delicious food she's been making and writing about. My first photo shoot with her was for this blog entry on Chai. Let me tell you something, if you think what you're ordering at Starbucks is Chai, think again! Anupy's recipe is simple and very flavorful. And super easy to make. The fennel is very subtle but gives it a great extra 'what's in that?' yummy taste—and it stimulates digestion (which Anupy told me). As soon as I can get my hands on some cardamom pods, this is going to be added to my weekly repertoire and served to guests as well! You can see more photos from the sequence by visiting Anupy's Flickr page, linked on the right side of this page or on mine here: http://bit.ly/sn6Sh

Indian As Apple Pie
Indian As Apple Pie

August 20, 2009

Hi everyone. Thanks for your great messages. Miral I have already created amazing tasting Sambhar recipes..also a few other South Indian inspired dishes for the crockpot! I even made my own Sambhar masala. Imagine a Punjabi doing something like that sucessfully! It was amazing and very easy. I will post soon but again can't post EVERYTHING – or who will buy the book?

Jenna: Welcome! You are my first reader (that I know about) who I haven't personally told about my blog. So thank you thank you thank you. And if I can help you in any way let me know.

Maura: I love your pictures. And I love that we are working to help one another. Thank you for being a future taste tester! I can't wait to work together next Thursday!

alice
alice

September 03, 2009

I just found this site and I've been attempting to make a good cup of chai at home with no success. I will try your recipe soon. Yum! When can I come and be a taste tester??

Miral Patel
Miral Patel

August 19, 2009

May be now time to explore south indian dishes…waiting for that. Like authentic sambhar….

Jenna H
Jenna H

August 19, 2009

Just found your blog today through another blog which unfortunatly I can't remember. I love your chai recipe and can't wait to try it – sounds delicious. I am actually Italian but my parents always provided a wide variety of foods for us. Indian is one of my favorites! Can't wait for your cookbook to be released!

Sonia
Sonia

August 17, 2009

Where is the cookbook?

Indian As Apple Pie
Indian As Apple Pie

August 18, 2009

Sonia, do you mean my cookbook? If so, it's out next year. I just handed in the manuscript. If not…can you clarify what you mean? I'm a tad bit confused…Anupy

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