This is such a sweltering Indian summer — and there seems to be no respite. And there’s only so much water I can drink throughout the day. Milk is definitely an under-rated thirst-quencher — and it got me thinking… why settle only for milk when I can add to it spices and nuts and make a super refreshing thandai! And if you are living dairy free or are dairy intolerant, there’s an an alternative option in the recipe.
Thandai is a festive drink made during Maha Shivaratri, Holi and Diwali in India. Even though there are many variants (like badam — almond — thandai, rose thandai, mango thandai, and bhaang — cannabis — thandai), the most common one is made using a special blend of spices and nuts that make this exotic drink a uniquely cooling and refreshing drink. Of course, the ingredients vary from region to region, but you’ll know a thandai when you see it! For the uninitiated, thandai is pronounced thus: ṭh (where “t” is aspirated) ʌ n d ɑː iː. “Thand” in Hindi means cold.
This super refreshing thandai recipe was given to me by a well-known Bangalorean chef (thank you, you know who you are!) during my journalism days. There was a Holi food festival, and after a taste of some savoury snacks my poor throat was begging for a coolant. Also, I’d had a taxing day at work, having to cover three events until then, and this was my fourth and my ankles and legs were aching. It was then that I discovered this ambrosia (it surely must be). Sweet, chill, rich, and aromatic, it filled my senses like the mountains in springtime. It glided down my tongue, this intoxicating drink, soothing my throat with rose and saffron. It filled me up, thanks to the melon seeds, poppy seeds, almonds and cashews. I couldn’t have asked for anything more invigorating. I felt a wave wash over me — I hadn’t tasted anything like it before — and it took away my tiredness and aches and thirst, and I was left rejuvenated.
You see, the Bangalore of yore had a smattering of North Indians, but their population has grown sizeably in the past 10 years. North Indian restaurants too have mushroomed to cater to them and thanks to food festivals and and the like, we’re introduced to gems like the super refreshing thandai. Drink whenever you want, as a mid morning refresher or dessert after lunch or an afternoon coolant, or after dinner for a good night’s sleep. Try it, and you’ll end up making it and drinking it everyday, throughout the summer.
Sweet, chill, rich, and aromatic, this super refreshing thandai fills your senses like the mountains in springtime. It glides down your tongue, this intoxicating drink, soothing your throat with rose and saffron. It also fills you up, thanks to the melon seeds, poppy seeds, almonds and cashews. You can’t ask for anything more invigorating — it’ll take away your aches, tiredness and thirst!
- 1 litre fresh milk (4 and 1/4 cups) use almond milk or a mix of almond milk and cashew milk for a dairy-free option
- 3 tablespoons watermelon or muskmelon seeds, or a mix
- 2 tablespoons finely cut blanched almonds
- 2 tablespoons finely cut cashew nuts
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons white poppy seeds soaked in a cup of water for 15 minutes and simmered for 15 minutes
- 1 and 1/4 teaspoons black pepper corns
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/8 teaspoon saffron, or a large pinch of it
- 1 teaspoon rose essence, or rose petals, or rose syrup
- 5-6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped pistachio nuts skinned and unsalted
Take a cup of milk (about 225 ml) in a blender and add to it all the ingredients (including the poppy seeds in the water), except the pistachio nuts, and blend to make a fine(ish) paste. Pulse in short bursts so the nuts don't get hot.
Let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Strain it over a seive lined with muslin or cheesecloth.
Add the rest of the milk to the strained milk. Add more sugar if you wish.
Chill for 4 hours, so the flavours are well blended.
Garnish with the pistachio nuts. You could also add a few strands of saffron and rose petals if you want.