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Indian Cooking Lessons: Chai

Yes, I need lessons in making tea. I've watched my housekeeper make it hundreds of time and I've been practicing making it myself but I can never get it exactly the way she does.

The chai you get at Starbucks is known as masala chai here. Throughout India, "chai" mostly means "tea with milk and sugar," not with all the spices that Americans have come to know it as.

This is the basic recipe my housekeeper uses for two servings of the ginger chai that I like best:

1 1/2 cups water, the "cup" being the cup you'll be drinking from
1 1/2  spoonfuls of tea leaves ("chai powder," it's called here)
2 spoonfuls of sugar
1-inch of fresh ginger, washed and crushed (for plain chai, omit the ginger)

Add everything except the milk to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil it for a few minutes until it turns black then add milk until it is "the color of chai." If the milk is pasteurized and from the refrigerator, keep boiling for just a minute, long enough for the milk to heat up.

Strain directly into two tea cups and drink while it's still hot.

I usually blog with a cup of chai.
For some reason when I make it myself, my chai is weak so I think I'm using too much water or not enough tea, ginger, and/or sugar, or I'm not boiling it long enough. I've been working on my own recipe with ginger, mint, and honey (instead of sugar) and I'm getting closer to the taste I want but I'm not there yet.

When I have a cold, my housekeeper uses a special blend of ingredients. They make me feel wonderful; the chai feels great on a sore throat and clears up my head congestion. It's so delicious but she refuses to make it for me unless I'm sick. She recently shared the ingredients with me, though, so I can make it when I'm feeling sniffly during the cold New England winter:

honey instead of sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the following: cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and cumin powders
a few leaves of mint
a dash of black pepper

Follow the same steps as above with the tea powder and the milk.

Making chai was one of Muffin's first tasks in the kitchen. She uses the mortar and pestle to crush the ginger, she fills the water cup from the distiller, and she spoons the tea and sugar into the saucepan, taking "just a little taste" of each. If I can't get it right, she'll probably be able to.


Victoria Mason said…
I will need this to be made for me on my next visit to RI. :) It sounds like heaven. Especially the one for a cold.

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