Chai. Not tea. Chai.
It’s safe to say that all of South Asia thrives on chai. When guests come over, it’s customary to offer them “chai biscuit.” Similarly “evening chai” routine is ritually observed, at least in my household, and always taken out in the lawn in the company of mosquitoes that circle overhead.
To me, microwaving water or dipping teabags into water poured from the kettle is cardinal sin. It’s too English and never happening in my apartment. The real chai is the one that’s served in little glasses at the dhabas in Pakistan. Masala chai is more popular in India; it’s spiced with ginger and other stuff. But to be honest, chai is best when kept simple. Cooked on the stove and scented with cardamom (optional), chai is made with part milk part water. I’ve been making my chai this way and swear by it. Amongst my friends, I am the chai master, so this cup is worth hanging around the stove for.
While visiting Karachi a few months ago, I sat at a dhaba close to my house every single night, on plastic chairs, hot glasses of chai in hand. And because of the cool winter nights, I came back home unscathed (from mosquito attack and all else, if you know what I mean).
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 cup water
- 2 tsp loose tea (Tapal or Lipton from an Indian grocery store only)
- 1-1/2 tsp sugar (or to taste)
- 3-4 green cardamom pods
- In a saucepan over medium heat, pour milk and water and let it come to a simmer.
- Next add the loose tea and give it a quick stir.
- Once the color changes to brown, add sugar and the opened (or lightly crushed) cardamom pods
- Now turn the flame a little higher and let the chai bubble and cook for 3-4 minutes. The milk won't split but make sure you do it on medium heat. Cooking the chai will make it richer and creamier, and deeper in color.
- Strain into a small glass or cup.