How to Make Noon Chai (Kashmiri Pink Tea).

How to Make Noon Chai (Kashmiri Pink Tea).

  • Foods
  • January 26, 2023
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Traveling to Kashmir to research my latest book On the Himalayan Trail, I ate so many great dishes: everything from the thick, spice-laden flatbread known as bakarkhani to the richly spiced gushtaba ( tender lamb or mutton meatballs cooked in a beautiful oven). yoghurt-based sauce). But not only the food, also the drinks have conquered my heart.

Kashmir is a region known for its tea, and I’ve fallen in love with a particular tea-based drink that’s unlike anything I’ve drunk before – Noon (aka Sheer) Chai – for its sweet, salty flavor Flavor is unusual and its rosy color. It’s a drink that Kashmiris enjoy several times a day, especially at breakfast: sometimes neat, sometimes with hot flatbread.

Kashmir has long been part of an important trade route, and some believe Noon Chai first came to the region from Yarkand in Turkestan, where Atkan Chai (tea made with butter, salt and milk) was popular. Others, however, believe it arrived with the 14th-century Persian missionary Mir Syed Ali Hamdani, who arrived in Kashmir with hundreds of artisans and artisans — as well as midday chai, which he likely found relish on his journey through Central Asia.

My first taste of lunchtime chai was at the Chai Jaai tearoom in Srinagar: a striking contemporary building whose walls are hand-painted in traditional Kashmiri Naquashi style. Here, owner Roohi Nazki serves traditional Kashmiri delights in an English tearoom-style setting — including lunchtime chai, which I tried alongside makai tsot, the cornmeal flatbreads also known as makki ki roti.

The first thing you’ll notice about traditionally served lunchtime chai is how it’s steeped in a samovar, an elaborate metal pot. The second thing you will notice is its color. You don’t see pink tea every day.

A simple pinch of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) creates Noon Chai’s striking color. When added to green tea, the baking soda (along with oxidizing the tea leaves) turns the water from clear to reddish brown. Add cold water and milk and you will see the color change before your eyes. It’s wonderful for those cooler winter months.

How to prepare Noon Chai:

In a medium saucepan, bring 2½ cups cold water to a boil, then add 2 tsp. green tea leaves, 1 tsp. crushed green cardamom seeds and 1 pinch baking soda. Cover with a lid and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add another ½ cup cold water, then strain, return liquid to saucepan and add 1⅔ cup whole milk. Bring to a boil again. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, then add 1 tsp. Salt. Serve immediately or store in a thermos for drinking later. Top with chopped almonds if you like. That’s enough for two.

Adapted with permission from On the Himalayan Trail: Recipes and Stories from Kashmir to Ladakh by Romy Gill, edited by Hardie Grant.

On the Himalayan Trail: Recipes and Stories from Kashmir to Ladakh

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