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Kahvi, green tea chai     Salt Tea I
Salt Tea II     Kashmiri Cuisine

Kashmiri tea

The samovar, also found in Russia and Persia, is characteristic for Kashmiri tea. Kashmiris make two or three types of tea in the samovar, and many say good kashmiri tea has to be made in a samovar.

The kehvi (also call kahva, or mogil cha:y) is the favorite tea of Kashmiris. The tea leaves used to make it are called bambay cha:y, or green tea. The bambay cha:y, sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, and almonds or pistachios, and sometime saffron, are brewed in the samovar and enriched with pounded almonds or pistachios, cardamom seeds, and cinnamon stalks, overdosed with sugar and served without milk.

The second type of tea is dabal cha:y. It is made with bambay cha:y, sugar, cardamom, and almonds, and milk is also added. Kashmiri Pandits serve dabal cha:y at weddings and on feasts.

The third type of tea is called shi:r' cha:y or shirchai. This type is not made with bambay cha:y green tea, but with a slightly fermented tea such as an oolong. It is brewed with bicarbonate of soda, salt, whole milk, and cream (mala:y), spices and pistachios. It has a very pleasant pinkish or peachy color. Shi:r' cha:y also is a typically Kashmiri tea, but not every visitor likes it. Salt tea is served at evry breakfast and in the afternoon. It resembles the butter tea of Tibet. Kashmiri folk say the salt is refreshing in the heat; in Mongolia and Tibet, tea is salted to resist the cold!

Try out these special Kashmiri spice teas which will help digest any amount of spiced food and leave your taste buds tingling for more. Kashmiri tea is best enjoyed in a Kashmiri kho:s (cup): it used to be served in bronze Cups by Pandits or handleless porcelain Bowls, (K -'Chin Pyala'.) by Muslims.

Kahvi (Kashmiri Green Tea Chai)- 4 cups

Ingredients
5 cups water
5 teaspoons sugar or to taste
about 4 inches of whole cinnamon ( teaspoon cinnamon powder)
5 green cardamon, bruised ( teaspoon green cardamom powder)
pinch saffron (6 strands)
2 teaspoons kahva (green) tea or Lipton Green Label tea
1-2 tablespoons almonds, powdered

Method

  1. Boil the water with sugar, cinnamon and the green cardamom powder for 5-10 minutes till the color of the water is brown and the water emits a good fragrance.
  2. Whole spices are better, powdered is cloudy and lesser taste
  3. Add the tea leaves, remove from flame, cover with lid and let stand for 3-5 minutes till the tea brews.
  4. Pour into warmed cups and add teaspoon powdered almonds in each cup.
  5. Serve immediately.

Shirchai- Salt tea I

Correctly prepared, this tea is pink or peachy colored when you finish making it.

Ingredients

9 cups water, divided
Ellen's note: this is very dependent on the water quality, you may need to use bottled water salt to taste
2 tablespoons semi-fermented tea leaves, such as oolong
15-20 seeds of green cardamom
PLUS 1\2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1\2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 pieces of cinnamon bark, OPTIONAL
a slice of fresh ginger, OPTIONAL
2 peppercorns, OPTIONAL
1 teaspoon poppy seeds, OPTIONAL
1 pint whole milk or half and half
Ellen's note: skimmed or reduced fat milk muddies the color. 6 tablespoons fresh cream (malai), garnish
2 tablespoons ground pistachio, garnish

Method

  1. Pour water in a heavy based large pan. Add tea leaves, salt, seeds of green cardamom and bicarbonate of soda.
  2. Bring to boil reduce heat and simmer briskly for 20-45 minutes or until it reduces to 1\3 its original quantity (2 cups).
  3. While it is still boiling, add the optional ingredients and about 2-3 cups of cold water or enough water to make four cups in all. Bring to boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat, strain and keep aside.
  4. Boil the milk with ground cardamom over low heat. Pour prepared tea blend (Qahwa) into the milk. Bring to boil, add salt and simmer for 3-5 minutes over low heat.
  5. Remove from heat and pour into 6 cups. Spoon 1 tablespoon of thick cream or malai into each cup, then sprinkle 1 teaspoon of pistachio over it.

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Ellen's note: This recipe was sent to me. Slightly different from the above. Thanks to the original unknown author, who compiled it so lovingly. Update 2005: here is the site, it has many Kashmiri recipes: Kashmiri recipe index.

Traditional Kashmiri salt tea II recipe and variations

In some areas you can never get the right color and taste of the tea due to the acid water. Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) certainly helps. Even in Pakistan, depending on the water and tea leaves you have to add a little soda.
Use only whole milk, because 2% and skim milk don't work. This is a time consuming recipe, use whole milk or half and half.
5 cups water, divided
1 tablespoon semifermented tea, such as oolong
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
black cardamon seeds
salt
petals of Baa'dKhataaii (optional)- a kind reader took the time to let me know, this is star anise

Method

  1. Fill a midsize saucepan with a quart of water.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of tea leaves to it
  3. Add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in water along with the tea leaves.
  4. Let it boil, the tea leaves will expand and appear as small leaves lying flat on the surface of water.
  5. Take the pan off the stove once the level is 3/4 of the whole.
  6. Add cold water to it. 1/4 to make the 3/4 + 1/4 = 1.
  7. Before adding the cold tap water, you should see a burgundy/dark pinkish film on the surface. That tells you have boiled it to the right level and the color will be great.
  8. Take a ladle (Pavva), fill it with the boiled tea and aereate it (Phaa'intana) by pouring repeatedly. It is not like you are whipping an egg or batter. You take tea in the ladle and raise the level of the ladle about 8-10 inches and pour the tea back to the pan. Doing it at least ten to twenty times will make a change in the color of tea. Initially when you will be doing this exercise, you might find the color a little dull light brown or green, DO NOT BE DISHEARTENED. Once you find it peachy/ burgundy with a predominant pink tinge, STOP THERE. If you keep on, the color will become horrible once you add milk to it.
  9. Now just let it sit a while.
  10. Take a strainer and strain the tea into a bottle or a jar that you can keep in your fridge. Throw away the strained tea leaves. THIS IS THE BASE.
  11. To prepare the tea for two people, take two cups of the strained tea.
  12. Add milk to it till you get the bright pink color. If you are a Kashmiri then you will certainly want it to be bright pink with more milk, or to taste. Most people do not like it with only a little milk as it is not like the English Tea.
  13. Add one black cardamon seed, crushed (Alaichee), one petal of Baa'dKhataaii (star anise, if available) and salt (1/4 tablespoon). Let it boil for three to four times and then serve in a tea pot or put it in your tea cup directly. {The author says "Baa'dKh'atai' is a flower with six or seven petals (I haven't found the English name) and adds taste and fragrance to the tea." I (Ellen)have used one marigold petal.}
  14. The base (strained tea) won't keep more than a day or two; it will become dark and the color is not as fresh as it should be. Similarly don't try to store this Numkeen Cha'i ("salty tea") with milk in your fridge. But you can keep the strained tea without milk in the fridge.

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TROUBLESHOOTING YOUR KASHMIRI SALT TEA

  • If your tea appears dull pink and tastes sweet (even you never added sugar), probably you have added too much baking soda.
  • If the color is not bright pink after adding whole milk or half and half cream to it, probably you have used more than required tea leaves.

A Charming Letter from a Kashmiri reader in 2010

I am very pleased and appreciate your efforts and research to highlight the Kashmiri tea. I have been living outside Kashmir for the last 12 years but not a single day passes without me having my morning cup of my favorite NOONChai (sheerchai). In fact my store of the tea is on the brim of extinction, and in my search for availability of the tea leaves in UK, I came across your article, and I absolutely appeciate all your efforts. I actually come from the heart of Kashmir, where the traditions are maintained at least in terms of dietary habits.

However I am sorry to mention that although the recipe for Kahwa is fairly authentic, except for the fact that neither cinnamon nor cardamoms are used as powder (they have to be whole- bruised for cardamom), otherwise you don't get the traditional taste.

However the recipe for Salt tea's (more commonly called noonchai- noon means salt in kashmiri), although right in spirit, is horribly wrong in ingredients and a little bit detail about milk is wrong as well.

Firstly, apart from tea leaves and bicarb and salt and milk, the only other components of such tea are butter and almonds (skinned after soaking in water). There is Absolutely No Use of cardamom, cinnamom, etc; trust me, NO KASHMIRI WILL DRINK THAT TEA (sorry for the caps lock).

Also to mention that the tea is boiled to almost dry and you have to repeat the cycle a couple of times, i.e once the tea leaves and bicarb have almost boiled dry ,you just add water to it and repeat the boiling cycle, the final product is the concentrate called "TUETH". Now here comes the other error you have made. Once you have to make the final product (NOONChai), a small quantity of the "Tueth" is taken and diluted up to 10 times its volume with Water depending on how strong you want it to taste(not milk to dilute the concentrate)and after that you do the aereation (Khaal Waal), then you add salt and milk, maybe butter and almond, especially for special occasions. Then you simmer it (simmering is best done in Samovar, though not many people use it in modern times except on special functions) and it tastes best after an hour or so of simmering. Also to point out an important thing, the tea is never strained so as to take out its leaves( Chai-Kosh), they are important for adding taste during simmering.

Our thanks to Sal.

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Kashmiri Cuisine

The cuisine of the state is characterised by three different styles of cooking - the Kashmiri Pandit, the Muslim and the Rajput styles. Though they eat meat, many traditional Kashmiri Pandits don't include garlic, shallots and onion to their cooking. Pandits use Asafoetida (Hing), ginger powder and powdered aniseed or 'saunt' instead. Here is a link to some authentic Kashmiri Pandit recipes.

Kashmir has developed its own specialties in cooking - its cuisine is unique. Some of the better known dishes are yakhni, tabaq naat, which is an exotic dish made of fried ribs and decorated with silver varq, dum aloo, rogan josh, gaustaba which is a light meatball, haleem which is meat pounded with wheat, etc. Streams and lakes have influenced the Kashmiri cuisine. Fresh fish is a favorite. Myriad meat dishes are served during the traditional feasts. Lamb and poultry are served as accompaniments. Smoked meat, dried fish and vegetables are stored for use in winter.

Locally grown varieties of rice are sweetly fragrant and very light. All the dishes are built around the main course of rice. The delicious saag, is made from thick-leafed green leafy vegetable called 'hak' that grows throughout the year. Lotus root is also an important produce for boat dwelling people and makes a very good substitute for meat.

Fresh vegetables are used in season. Morel mushrooms called as 'guhchi' are harvested and consumed fresh in summer. They are expensive, therefore used only for specific occasions such as religious and wedding feasts. Their hearty flavor enlivens pilafs and other meatless dishes. Corn bread is an alternative for rice.

One of the distinct features of Kashmiri cuisine is the generous use of yogurt/curds in the gravies, giving the dishes a creamy consistency. Walnuts, almonds and raisins are also added to the curries. Ghee, clarified butter oil, is the medium of cooking, the fat is believed to impart heat to the body, and mustard oil is also used.

The Kashmiris also use asafoetida to flavor their meat dishes. Saunf (fennel seed, in the USA they sometimes substitute aniseed) and dry ginger are other spices used imaginatively to enhance the taste. For instance some dishes get their pungency not from chilis, but from dry ginger. Other dishes have no spice except may be a little saunf added to them for flavor. Being the home of saffron, the colorful flavoring agent is used in the pulaos and sweets. A special masala 'cake' is made from spice-blends, onions and locally grown chilis that can be stored for longer period of time and used in flavoring curries. Sauces are made from dairy rich products. Kashmiri fare is also influenced by the mughal cooking. The fruits and nuts grown from the valley are used lavishly in daily menus.

As you see from the recipes above, the tea in Kashmir is usually not Lipton or Orange pekoe. Rather it is spice-scented green tea called "kahava" poured from a samovar.

 
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