Monday, November 26, 2012

Kashmiri Chai (or simply Pink Tea)

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It's a sure sign that winter has finally arrived in Karachi when Kashmiri Chai (or simply known as Pink Chai) starts being served at weddings. There's just something about the steaming cup of chai in the prettiest color of pink, flavored with a bit of cardamom, and then garnished with almonds and pistas/pistachios that just spells comfort.  For years, Kashmiri Chai has always been a Shaadi special till one day my friends made it following a recipe they found on the back of this brand of green tea and achieved that elusive pink color. From then on, I have been using the same recipe (which is the basic Kashmiri Chai recipe) but have just made improved the technique with trial and error and tips from my mother.
Kashmiri Chai - The Process
Kashmiri Chai 
(For about 4 mugs/cups and 5-6 tea cups)

Ingredients:
Water - 4 cups + 2.5 cups ice cold water
Milk - 2 cups 
Sugar - to taste (1 tbsp per cup)
Cardamom/Elaichi - 1 to 2 pods
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Baking Soda - 1/2 tsp
Green Tea Leaves (1 teaspoon per mug)
The tea used for Kashmiri Chai is easily available in Lahore & Islamabad with the name 'Kashmiri Chai' leaves, with Gul-e-Nasreen also being a popular brand. In Karachi, the best leaves I have personally found are at Empress market. The Gul Bahar (available in a green sachet) brand bay Tapal easily available in supermarkets can also be used.

Method:
1. Heat 4 cups of water in a big sauce pan; make sure that the sauce pan is big enough because you need to use a spoon to pour the mixture from the top so its best to have a big sauce pan to begin with. Once it reaches a boil, add 4 tsp of green tea leaves. 

2. Lower heat to medium and cook for at least 10 minutes; the mixture will reduce to about half from the initial amount (you can also check from the initial mark made on the side of the pot). Add a cardamom pod for flavor.
Kashmiri Chai - Letting it boil to half the quantity after adding the green tea leaves
3. Add 2-3 pinches of baking soda/meetha soda (approx. 1/2 tsp); this is what creates the pink shade in the Kashmiri Chai but make sure you don't add a lot because that would make the tea bitter. Let it cook for about 3-4 minutes on medium heat again and it basically turns like a dark brown-slight red color then turn off the heat.

4. Take about 2.5 cups of cold water (the colder the better so add a few ice-cubes) and add it slowly while taking a cup and pouring and re-pouring the tea from a height; this known as "paitha lagana" in Urdu and you keep on doing it again and again which creates a slight froth on the top of the tea; this is why its best to take a big sauce pan since it does splatter a bit, and the bigger sauce pan makes sure that theres enough space for you to pour and re-pour tea. Do this for about 4-5 minutes and you will notice that as you keep on doing it, the color will turn more red. 
Kashmiri Chai - Creating the pink color
5. Once the color turns red, then strain the mixture into another sauce pan. Then add milk to taste (I added about 1.5-2 cups but you can add more); but the more milk you add, the color will turn pinker and it will also taste more creamier so its a bit upto your taste, but make sure you taste just so that it doesn't end up being too watery. Add crushed cardamom powder, a pinch of salt, sugar to taste (I added 4 tbsp). Put on heat again, till the Kashmiri Chai reaches a boil and then pour into mugs/tea cups. I like boiling for 2-3 minutes because it creates a bit more forth and cream on top, but just make sure it doesn't boil over. 
Pink Kashmiri Chai
6. Add crushed almonds & pista's for garnish and more sugar based on individual taste; For added taste, you can add fresh cream on top as well. Some people add salt in Kashmiri Chai which I thought was a recipe mistake, but I added it today, and it does make it taste really good.
Note: The real Kashmiri style chai by the Kashmiri's  always has salt in it and never salt. Its actually considered a travesty to add sugar to it. 
Kashmiri Chai garnished with almonds and pistachios 

19 comments:

  1. great! do we just pour in the cold water all at once and then start the pouring/re-pouring?

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  2. Pour in the cold water slowly; I usually pour in a bit of cold water and then pour/re-pour for like 15-20 seconds, then a bit of cold water and so on.

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  3. Thanks. Another thing, the regular jasmine green tea would be ok for this?

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  4. Regular Jasmine Green Tea would be fine; but I personally use Lipton Gulbahar Brand ..

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  5. Made it for the second time today!! And results were again fabulous! Yummy! I used jasmine green tea by tapal!

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  6. This is something so new to me. I often have milk tea with cardamom in it, but never baking soda. Very interesting recipe.

    Thanks for visiting my space, do drop by again.

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    1. Do try out the recipe .. it looks so pretty, and it tastes really good, especially in the winter months ..

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  7. This is a great recipe, but as a Kashmiri, the last line was hilarious.
    So, Kashmiri chai is called noonchai, which means salt tea, and we never add sugar in it.
    I know it's big in Pakistan and we serve it to our Pak friends with sugar. But didn't realise it wasn't well known that Kashmiri chai is salty.

    Thank you, though, this is a very well-described recipe.

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    1. Hi .. Thanks for liking the recipe :) ..
      and ur so right, very few people know the original recipe is without sugar, and I only found it when I read up on a few recipes .. and from what I understand, Kashmiri's consider it an offense to add sugar to the recipe, right? And i was telling this to someone who lived in Islamabad where its really popular, and she just went like really? I actually love it, but I rarely have it because they add so much sugar :) ..
      And just checked out ur blog .. looks really interesting ..

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  8. Very good recipe. Kashmiri chai is a winter staple around our house. I make mine similarly except I simmer the tea leaves a lot longer...at least an hour or so. Does the shorter cooking time make any difference in flavor? Sometimes I'll throw in a small piece of cinnamon stick or star anise and that lends a nice flavor too.

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    1. Err - I missed replying earlier ..
      I think the cooking time depends a bit on taste as well - like I try not to simmer the tea leaves too long because my family is too sensitive to the taste of tea leaves which is why I also strain it earlier so that it becomes more clear ..
      Also, sometimes if I need to make the tea sugarless (for diabetics) I cook it longer (like doodh patti) just to enhance the taste since I can't sugar which I believe contributes its own taste ..
      The cinnamon & star anise sounds like a really good idea - I personally love cinnamon and add it in almost everything :) ..

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  9. hey this looks great. Can i leave the tea for an hour and then heat it again or is it necessary to be fresh? i want to make this for an iftar party (first ramadan 0.0) lots of people, lots of preferences (iftary ke foran baad, taraweeh se pehle, khaane ke baad) can i keep heating it and then serve? hoping for a pronto reply :)

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  10. Hey.. thanks :)
    and yeah, you can .. i used to make a batch and keep it in the fridge and then have it the next day; however, just take care of a few things, make sure you strain the tea leaves out properly, otherwise i have noticed the tea might turn slightly dark .. and when you are warming it the second or third time, just warm the quantity that's needed, don't keep warming the whole amount .. and yes, in the end, just add the pistachos/almonds on top ..
    Best of luck for the party!

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  11. thanks for this great recipe. and you are right. I have been searching for this particular chai and there were these awful number of sites with directions all misleading and wanting you to add stupid ingredients ending up with a result you'd rather like never to have. so Thanks a million. this originally is a real kashmiri chai. thanks!

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  12. Replies
    1. Hi Atul ..
      Just saw the link - do you sell Kashmiri Chai? and in which countries?
      would like to link your store since its not easily available abroad.

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  13. i made it but it was not creamy at all..n unable to find my mistake :(

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    1. Hi .. It could be the kind of milk you used or the quantity.
      What kind of milk did you use? Tetra-pak or fresh? Full-fat or low-fat milk?
      The type of milk you use does make a preference - I prefer fresh full-fat milk, or I use Tetra-pak full fat. Chai made with Low-fat milk does not taste as creamy.
      Also, I know I have written 2 cups of milk in my recipe, but sometimes I add more because it doesn't taste creamy enough or I let it cook for a few minutes on low boil so the texture becomes creamier. Try making a small batch next time and add more milk - keep adding milk by 1/4 - 1/2 cup till it reaches the creaminess you like.

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  14. Salam! i used the green tea in my house,made the tea by almost the same recipe,except that i put the milk on boil and then added the tea mixture.The color was pink.
    Then my mum said cook it more so that it becomes thicker (garhi) and then it turned Brown !! although it tasted great,but why did it turn brown from pink??

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