If there is one thing we love in England, it’s a nice cup of tea and a biscuit. In this respect, we are not so different from the people of India to whom the presence of tea vendors known as chai-wallahs are an everyday sight on roadsides all over the country.
Although tea is often drunk black, sugared or with milk, the most popular recipe involves a mouth-watering selection of Indian spices from cardamom and cloves, to ginger and black pepper. The resulting brew is masala chai, a luxuriously spiced and warming drink that is oh-so Indian in flavour and aroma.
It goes without saying that a spicy, exotic tea such as chai needs something a little more adventurous than your standard Rich Tea as an accompaniment. Although traditionally rusks and rolled parathas are the most common forms of tea time snacks for dunking, India has a range of alternative offerings guaranteed to complement your cuppa…
A favourite treat in India, these little, round balls of heaven will deliver a sugar hit that’s sure to beat that afternoon slump. Particularly popular at times of celebration, these treats are created from powdered milk, a pinch of flour and baking powder as well as a good dollop of ghee. Roll these ingredients together and deep-fry before coating in sugary syrup. Very naughty but very nice.
These traditional, Indian snacks are similar to pretzels. Wheat flour dough is curled into spiral shapes before getting the deep-fried treatment and a good, long soak in sugar syrup. The combination of crispy coating and chewy dough creates a texture that’s tough to beat.
Now for something a little less sweet… Murukka is a savoury snack made from rice flour and gram flour. Twisted into little whorls and peppered with sesame seeds, these snacks are deep fried for the perfect crunch.
This decadent confectionery is the Indian equivalent of a rich, tasty, slice of cake. Condensed milk and sugar form the basis of plain barfi but these versatile snacks can be adapted to suit a variety of tastes. Flavours include mango, coconut, cashews, pistachios and a whole host of spices.
Another spherical snack that enjoys great popularity in India is the laddoo. A blend of gram flour, rava, ground coconut, sugar and ghee, these round treats are deep-fried to a dark, golden brown colour and are often sprinkled with nuts.
This traditional Bengal snack is a form of cake created from a batter of rice flour. The dough is melded into parcels that can be stuffed with all sorts of delights including grated coconut, jaggery, cashews and pistachios. Pitha are generally dusted with spices and either deep-fried, steamed or baked.
This traditional, sweet flat-bread is an Indian favourite for rolling up and dunking in tea. Different regions add their special touches such as grated coconut, jaggery, nutmeg or cardamom but even plain with a touch of ghee, they make good dunking candidates.
Of course, if you are in the mood for something a little more substantial, why not pay a visit to one of London’s best Indian brasseries? Don’t forget to choose a nice cup of chai with a tasty treat on the side for dessert.