Masala Chai

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recipe thursdayI think the most important of all Indian foods is masala chai, a sweet milky spiced tea. The chai wallahs who sit on street corners are surrounded by men sipping the strong stuff from tiny disposable cups or real glass glasses. You can get chai (masala or plain) whether you are at a restaurant or sitting on the beach. You can also make it at home.

There are as many combinations of spices as cooks, but every mix includes ginger, cardamom and clove. Some also add cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg and/or mace.

I learned two different techniques for making masala chai: one with whole spices started in cold water, the other with ground spices added to boiling water. In both methods, the milky tea is repeatedly brought to a boil before being served.

The tea should be Assam granules/powder (not leaf), because it can be boiled without losing its flavour. Delicate teas like Darjeeling won't work as well.

Alu's Masala Chai
serves 2

3 cardamom pods
2 cm cinnamon stick
1 cm fresh ginger root
2-3 cloves
2-3 black peppercorns
1 cup ml water
1 tsp Assam tea powder
1/2 cup milk

Bring the water and spices to a boil. Add the tea and allow to boil for two minutes. Add the milk and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat to stop the boil. Return to heat and bring back to a boil. Repeat several times. Strain and serve with sugar to taste.

Shakti's Masala Chai
serves 2

Chai Masala spice mix: 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, and a generous pinch each of ground black pepper, clove, mace, and nutmeg. This makes enough for four pots of chai. You can buy this mix ready made from Shakti's Indian Spice Box if you happen to be in Udaipur.

250 ml water
1/2 tsp chai masala spice mix
1 tsp Assam tea powder
2 tsp sugar
125 ml low fat milk

Add spice mix to boiling water. Boil one minute then, add tea and sugar. Boil one minute, then add milk. When the chai is likely to boil over, lift it from the heat to stop the boiling, then put it back on the flame. Repeat 5-7 times. Remove from heat and allow to steep, covered, for 2 minutes. Strain and serve with additional sugar to taste.

2 Comments

Very interesting; I remember seeing this in my childhood, but now I wonder why bringing it to a boil several times vs. just letting it boil for a while makes superior masala chai .

Bringing it on and off the boil prevents the milk from scorching. If you overboil, the chai forms an unwanted skin.

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  • Kristen: Bringing it on and off the boil prevents the milk read more
  • Jonathan and Sachiko: Very interesting; I remember seeing this in my childhood, but read more

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