How To Make Dishoom’s Masala Chai
Masala chai. Photograph by Haarala Hamilton, courtesy of Bloomsbury
There’s no doubt that Messrs Shamil and Kavi Thakrar, along with chef Mr Naved Nasir, have played a huge part in shaping Britain’s modern Indian dining scene, catering to and inspiring appetites beyond curry houses and Kingfisher beer. The trio opened Dishoom, a restaurant inspired by the Irani cafés of old Bombay, in Covent Garden, London, in 2010, and have since expanded to multiple sites across the capital, as well as spots in Manchester and Edinburgh.
Their signature creamy and rich black daal, which is cooked for a full 24 hours, has earned cult status and inspired many copycat recipes, as has the breakfast bacon naan, which sandwiches rashers with cream cheese, tomato-chilli jam and fresh coriander in pillowy bread (and shares, ahem, remarkable similarities with the McDonald’s bacon flatbread, launched in early 2018). Now the founders of Dishoom are happily sharing their secrets in their first cookbook, Dishoom: From Bombay With Love. Die-hard fans will be pleased to hear that it contains the recipe for another favourite: the restaurant’s spicy, sweet masala chai.
It’s a drink that weaves a common thread through meals at Dishoom. Friendly front-of-house staff offer steaming cups of the comforting milky tea to patiently queuing diners with rumbling stomachs, waiters gently nudge newbies to the restaurant to try it with brunch and regulars knowingly eschew a latte for bottomless chai. Nothing will help you sleep better than finishing a meal with a tall glass.
Chai can be made in a variety of ways, with differing quantities of milk and sugar, but at its core are the aromatics. In Dishoom’s recipe, fresh ginger, black peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves are used to infuse brewed tea (loose Assam or Darjeeling, or English breakfast teabags), before whole milk and sugar are added.
As well as a morning pick-me-up, this milky, sugary, caffeinated drink just calls out for dunking, whether it’s a bun or brun maska (sweet or savoury crusty bread rolls) or a Rich Tea biscuit. It’s the ideal accompaniment to vada pau (a potato patty in a bun) or, for something stronger, mixed into a rum and whisky cocktail. Basically, a glass of chai will see you from dawn until dusk and all through the night.
Give Dishoom’s signature drink a go with the recipe below:
- 2 tbsp loose Assam or Darjeeling tea, or 3 English breakfast teabags
- 12 slices root ginger
- 1½ tsp black peppercorns
- 12 cardamom pods
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 5 cloves
- 50g granulated white sugar
- 500ml whole milk
- Place the tea, ginger and spices into a saucepan, pour over 1 litre boiling water and bring to the boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer until you can smell the spices, about 10 minutes.
- Add the sugar and milk, turn up the heat and bring back to the boil.
- Allow 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (A skin will form, but this is strained off at the end.)
- Taste to see if the chai is to your liking; boil a little more if you want a stronger flavour. Strain, discard the solids and serve immediatley.
Photograph courtesy of Bloomsbury