In my bid to fill gaping holes in the blog (see bhindi masala post), I bring you a masala chai recipe. My husband, Saptarshi, has been after me for years to post a basic chai recipe given its central place in a Pakistani household. At home in Islamabad, we only have simple Lipton black tea that is brewed in a teapot for a few minutes and served alongside milk and sugar. It wasn’t interesting enough to warrant a post. But when I tried this Lahore Deli Chai recipe a couple of years ago, I learned of the special joy of a spiced, creamy chai. When I recreated it a couple of weeks ago, I realized that it was a little too spicy and too milky for my taste. There had to be a middle ground.
This masala chai recipe is that middle ground. A typical roadside Pakistani chai is doodh pati – tea leaves cooked in milk. That’s Lahore Deli’s variation as well. But since I cannot stand too much milk in my coffee or tea, I adapted the recipe to make it less milk heavy. I took some lessons from my friend Izzah’s authentic chai recipe on her blog; and Numra of Empress Market from her tutorial on Instagram.
This masala chai recipe is for me. If you are looking for a doodh pati recipe or a really complex masala chai, you will have to look elsewhere. This is tea primarily brewed in water (rather than milk) and lightly spiced with a pinch of ground fennel seeds and cardamom. I played around with the recipe a few times and here’s what I learned.
How to Make This Chai Recipe Your Own
- I only used ground cardamom and a pinch of fennel seeds in this recipe but don’t let that stop you from playing around. I was chatting with my Twitter friends, and people incorporate a whole range of spices including fresh ginger, cloves, black pepper and cinnamon sticks. See what you like.
- Whatever spices you use, remember to infuse them for a couple of minutes in simmering water in the beginning.
- Use strong black tea. You can use teabags as well. In this recipe, I added loose Tapal tea and strained it towards the end.
- Use whole milk! In fact, some will go as far as urging you to use fresh milk only but we know that can be a little difficult.
- Izzah and Numra both recommend aerating the tea with a ladle. I didn’t have the patience to do that but I was occasionally whisking it. This apparently helps make it creamier.
- Do not serve the tea in glass! I thought it would look good in photos but it’s really impractical. Stick to mugs and teacups.
I hope these tips and recipe will guide you to make your own perfect cup of masala chai. Till then, enjoy and Ramadan Mubarak!
Masala Chai Recipe
- 4 cups water
- Pinch of fennel seeds ground
- 4 cardamom pods removed and ground
- 5 teaspoons loose black tea or teabags
- 1 cup whole milk
- 5 teaspoons sugar or to taste
- Bring 4 cups water to boil. Reduce to simmer and add ground spices and tea. Let it simmer for 2 minutes.
- Whisk in milk. Bring to boil.
- Lower heat and let milk simmer for 8 minutes, whisking occasionally and skimming any residue from the top.
- Remove from heat, stir in sugar or sweetener.
- Strain and pour in mugs or teacups.