February 27, 2009

Thandai (Spiced Almond Milk)

Thandai means "that which cools" in Hindi and is a cold milk based drink made with sugar, almonds and spices. The spice mix used in thandai can vary quite a bit from one recipe to another, but mostly contain saffron, cardamom, fennel seeds, black and/ or white pepper and melon seeds (sometimes a mix of 4 different melon seeds called charmagaz). Some recipes also call for fresh or dried rose petals, of the variety used to make gulkand.

This drink, popular in the northern part of India but virtually unknown in the south, is a great summer cooler and served as an offering to Lord Shiva during Shivarathri and during the colourful festival of Holi. The holy Indian city of Benaras/ Varanasi is supposedly the most famous for its thandai.

Another more well known, perhaps, version of thandai is the intoxicating bhang thandai served in many public places as a mood setter during Holi celebrations. This is made by adding bhang (a preparation from the buds and leaves of the Cannabis plant) and was central in various Holi song and dance routines in some Hindi films of the seventies!

Holi is a North Indian festival and we don;t celebrate it being South Indians. We have however, lived throughout most of our lives in places where Holi is celebrated and have invariably been drawn into the celebrations. While I am comfortable with the traditional type of Holi celebrations where neighbours and well-wishers turn up with colours and sweets and just lightly smear the colours on your cheeks or arms, the unihibited kind of colourful celebrations with being doused with coloured water and powders makes me uncomfortable.

Our daughter used to spend the first few years of her life hiding under her bed on Holi, totally scared of colour bearing friends who would knock on our door. That was only until she was old enough to join her large group of friends having fun all Holi morning coming home at lunch time stained with the colours of the rainbow!

Holi is not yet here and it may seem a little odd to many of you, who are probably still enjoying (or not!) the last bit of winter that I am making and serving a summer cooler right now. While it is not officially summer here, our days have already started getting quite warm and a cool drink is always welcome and this particular one is absolutely delicious as well.
The day time temperature touched an unusual high of 36 C on last Sunday, so you know what I'm talking about.
And as far as I'm concerned one doesn't need to wait for Holi to drink Thandai. Try this as a warm drink during cold days, and you will find it very refreshing, somehwat reminiscent of a spicy hot Posset or a Hot Toddy.
Thandai (Spiced Almond Milk)

(Adapted from Tarla Dalal's website)


1 L full fat milk (I used 3% fat)

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp rose water

A few strands of saffron

some slivered pistachios and a few saffron strands for garnishing

Grind into a fine powder:

1/4 cup almonds

2 tbsp white poppy seeds (khus khus)

2 tbsp melon seeds (magaz)

2 tbsp fennel seeds (saunf)

15 black peppercorns

seeds from 6 or 7 cardamom pods


Add the sugar to the milk, stir to dissolve the sugar completely and bring to a boil. Take the sweet milk off the heat and add the saffron strands. Allow the milk to cool to room temperature.

Add the powdered almond-spice mixture to the milk and stir well. Refrigerate this for about 4 to 6 hours. This allows the flavours to infuse into the milk. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and discard the solids. Add the rose water and mix well. Chill until ready to serve.
Serve chilled after garnishing with slivered pistachios and a few strands of saffron. This recipe serves 6.

This goes across for Sunita's Think Spice which is hosted this month by Ivy of Kopiaste who is thinking Fennel seeds.



Raaga said...

Considering my nose bleeding has started, I can totally believe that summer has begun, even in Delhi.

your pics are beautiful :)

As Appa says, "Shivaratri anikki, kulur shivane nnu odi poyidum!"

Aparna said...

That was quick. You suffer from nose bleeds? That's tough.

"Inge Shivarathrikki minnadiye kulur poyidduthu!!"

jayasree said...

Even I was thinking of preparing Thandai. Wasn't sure how it will taste becoz of the peppercorns.

Here the temp is hovering around 40at the start of summer. don't know what to expect in peak summer.

Aparna said...

Thandai tastes just great. You hardly notice the peppercorns at all except as a faint after taste which is not unpleasant. Try it out, its perfect for this weather.
Yes, the thought of summer scares me too. :)

SMN said...

Aparna can u pls pass me taht glass of tandai to me. its so hot in Bangalore..looks so inviting..

Madhumathi said...

Never made thandai at home..yours look nice..just by seeing it i feel refreshed....Summer has started in south india..Now i feel like making some Thandai..Thank for posting,Aparna :)

Lakshmi Venkatesh said...

Wow! beautiful and cool. those temperatures are sending a shiver in my spinal cord. I don't know how my children are going to manage the change. We are shifting from Germany to Baroda in April. Peek Summer there. And now its still peek winter here.

Ivy said...

I would love to have a hot version of that drink as I am freezing right now. We only have about 10C. In fact in Cyprus we have an almond drink which is served hot. The drink sounds delicious Aparna and thanks for participating in the Think Spice event.

Janaki Gopikrishna said...

its looks really cool yaar. Ekdum Thanda

Alka said...

My parents used to make this so often in summers,but we make this THAADHAl in a very different way,though ingredients are almost same.We use to grind the mix in an oval shape mortar pestle and then strain it thru' a muslin cloth,diluting with milk.It tasted awesome after the hard work put in
Yours look so lovely,i missed it this shivratri,coz i aint feeling well since past few days.Now i am craving it so badly :-(

Smitha said...

Oh! yes Holi is just round the corner! Perfect timing..

Ashwini said...

ahh. yest was so hot and humid that I wasnted to drink something cold ..If I had seen this yest I would have made this..I will make it today..:-) Very nice..

Binwii said...

Hi Jayashree,
Just happened to browse through your blog. You have some yummy recipes. btw this is called masala paal in sounth india which can be had hot or cold and pretty the same ingredients.


Sunshinemom said...

We used to have a lot of this in the North! Never made it but people gave us a lot:) and I use to like it. My Mother used to keep asking whether it contained bhang - afterall what is Shivaratri without Shiva's favourite nectar;) Yours looks healthy! I could do with one cup!

Cham said...

ah innum kullir odi pokavillai engal idathil! But the drink doesn't stop to have it. Very beautiful Aparna!

Annarasa said...

Looking great Aparna!! My Mum would make Thandai concentrate and refrigerate it - and we'd enjoy it throughout the Delhi summer!! Now I do the same every summer here:)


Maya said...

That looks super delish and refreshing..Rite in time for the warm days. Great pics too..

A_and_N said...

Oh so interesting that you use fennel seeds :)

And fairly healthy too. Does your daugther like this?

Bharti said...

I abs. love this! Mom would make it every shivratri as well. I usually make it once a year but a little later in the year..it's still cold out here.

Sharmila said...

Wow! I can make thandai at home now ... thanks to this recipe. My north indian hubby is sure going to like this. Great of you to share this recipe. :-)

Curry Leaf said...

Thanks for the recipe.I always thgt it was alcoholic and avoided it.So much for my knowledge.Thanks for info .

kahliyalogue said...

This looks lovely! I envy you already touching the warm weather!
I would love to try this,I was wondering,as a vegan,if I could probably try doing this directly with Almond milk?Dont you think? Thanx ,Mia

Varun Gupta said...

Hey... Great posting on Holi. I am Varun from Kolkata and we celebrate 2 day Holi. One in 11th March for Bengali and another on 12th March for non-bengali. Check my blog for Holi Phagwa Doljatra 2009. Your comment on my Holi postings will be highly appreciated.

Aparna said...

Its pretty hot here to, so this welcome stuff in this weather.

Lakshmi, Its going to be tough because summer can be pretty bad. Wish you all the best with the move.

Ivy, that's interesting. I think I wouldn't mind being in Greece now.:)

Alka, I think that is probably the right way to do it.

Thank you, Bindu. I've never seen masala paal back home, so its new to me.

I can understand her worry, Harini.:)

Cham, Unga idathukku varalaama enirukken.:) Its' really hot here.

Thandai concentrate. That sounds good, Apu. I would love to know how to make that.

N, Akshaya didn't say anything but drank it up. So she probably liked it or was desperate for something cold!! :)

Mia. You can probably use almond milk, but might need to thin it down a bit with water. I've never tried almond milk.

Thanks, Varun.

Chris @ Beyond Ramen said...

What a treat! I can't wait to try this in the summer. I'll admit that most of the time I'm too intimidated to try some of your recipes, but I'm familiar with all of these ingredients :)

Gayathri said...

Great drink.