Chai - Reinventing Food
Reinventing Food is series of blogposts where as a chef, I will share a few of the food discoveries and recipes I am collecting throughout my world tour. Each traditional dish will be the playground for creative cooking and ideation.
Tea in India is drank like water. Everywhere you go at any time of the day you will find people, making, selling and drinking chai. Chai in Europe means a particular type of tea made with spices. In India, chai simply means tea and you can find a great diversity of herbal and masala chais. One of the main characteristics of drinking chai is that it is always made with milk and flavours get blended with black tea. Black tea for Indians is what coffee is for Europeans.
We found that drinking tea in India is not as healthy as one can think. We found a few reasons that makes us more conscious when drinking it:
Today, many health partitioners recommend the reduction of milk consumption amongst adults. It contains fats and can create acidity in the body, especially for many adults intolerant to lactose. Yes, milk can be a great source of Calcium for kids but adults might find healthier sources of Calcium in green leafy vegetables or nuts for example.
Black tea is an stimulant similar to coffee. Meaning that regular habits of drinking black tea can create cravings, irritations and over stimulations of the body. Moreover, black tea is known for being the worst drink for your teeth health.
Last but not least, Indian have a sweet tooth and quantities of sugar used to make tea are off records.
That said, Jess and I found a café in the small town of Pushkar owned by a Brahmin that understood about Ayurvedic health concepts and was sensible to the different issues mentioned above. He would make his own blend/masala with no black tea called the “Magic Pinch”. One small pinch of his masala was enough to boil one cup of tea. He would make his tea with water and very little sugar. Just there, we knew that we had found a great tea maker.
More than health conscious, he was also a creative tea maker. Under 3 minutes, he created for us a tasting menu of 7 delicious herbal infused teas: plain, plain with black tea, lemon, lemon and mint (Jess’ favourite one), mint, rose (my favourite one) and jasmine.
We were delighted to find someone who with his tea represented so deeply and simply the essence of Food for Soul, matching creativity and wellbeing in a single experience.
Because this article is about cooking and reinventing here is the recipe for the magic pinch and my own alteration.
THE "MAGIC PINCH" TEA MASALA (easy cooking level)
10 gr. of dried ginger
10 gr. of cinnamon
10 gr. of green cardamon
10 gr. of black cardamon
10 gr. of start anise
10 gr. of clove
10 gr. of fennel seeds
10 gr. of dried holy basil
5 gr. of black pepper
2 gr. of turmeric
Pestle and mortar
How to make it
Slightly toast all the seeds to intensify their aroma.
Grind all the spices together to medium-coarse
Ready to use for your tea
Tip: if you are making the blend/masala for future teas don’t toast the seeds as you will loose their aromas.
MAGIC CHAI LATTE (easy cooking level)
1 small pinch of the Magic Pinch
1/4 cup of cashew
1 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon of ghee
1 teaspoon of honey
1 small cinnamon stick
2 to 3 dried rose petals
1 small pinch of sea salt
Fine metal strainer
How to make it
Start 3 hours before by roasting the cashews in the oven at 160ºC for 10-12 min. until well golden from both sides.
Soak the cashew in the cup of water with the salt for 3 hours and then blend them to get a fine roasted cashew milk. Strain the milk
Add all the ingredients, besides the rose petals and the honey, on a pot and take them to a boil. Indian technic: Keep mixing the tea using the ladle to take a spoonful of tea and to pour it back into the pot.
Serve the tea straining it into a cup with the honey and rose petals.
Enjoy your chai!