Chai is Hindi for “tea” so adding the word tea after chai is redundant. Chai is the ubiquitous beverage that forms the basis of every social gathering in India. Chai is always brewed in milk, giving it that rich creamy flavor. Often, chai is sweetened with cane sugar, making it an ideal partner to many an Indian dessert. Chai is never served during a meal, but when brewed with spices like cardamom, ginger and cinnamon, it presents a digestive relief. When served with spicy savories, chai offers soothing relief. Sprinkle the blend in your favorite cookie dough, bread pudding or cake batter for something unique.
Garam means warm, as in the internal warmth generated by the body when it imbibes certain spices like cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns and bay leaves. In India, garam masala is known as a warming blend of spices that is prepared throughout the regions of the country. This version toasts whole spices and when they are ground, the blend is amazingly complex. Use it as a rub for meats and poultry or sprinkle on stir-fries and soups. For an unusual dessert option, toss with fresh fruit and grill.
Named after the famed city, (now called Chennai), along the southern coast, this combination of roasted spices and legumes (yellow split peas) is used to flavor a thin, stewlike dish called Sambhar, often considered southern India’s signature dish. The legumes are roasted and ground with traditional spices to create a complex blend of aromas, flavors and texture. This blend is sensuous when sprinkled over stir-fries, folded into ghee-infused smashed potatoes or even tossed with fresh-cooked pasta and seasonal vegetables.
Much like the boisterous metropolis on the west coast of India, this blend embodies flavors derived from red chiles, coconut and sesame seeds in one smooth, harmonious mélange. Anything goes with this vibrant mixture, so sprinkle away onto any fish, chicken, vegetable and legume curry. Sprinkle on hot buttered popcorn for a fun snack option.