In a new cookbook, an Atlanta author shares classic spice blends from all over India, including this decadent chai lassi recipe

Photograph by Bailey Withers

Suspended in time, the essence of a bygone era still lingers in the city of Lucknow in northern India. Capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow is emotional for locals, evoking visions of grandeur and opulence. Its future blossomed after Emperor Jahangir granted an estate elsewhere in the region to one of his governors, known as a nawab. A successor nawab moved the seat of governance to Lucknow in 1775, lending his patronage to local arts, culture and cuisine. Under the moguls emerged a cuisine designed to delight nobility and win political favor.

It was a time of elegance, creating the delicately nuanced Awadhi cuisine, which also represents a tradition, called Ganga-Jamuni, born from the meeting of Hindu and Mughal culinary influences. Nawabs permeated the local dialect of Urdu, a poetic language, extending words like taste (pleasure) and ittr (perfume) in culinary descriptions. A delicately prepared dish is described as a dish cooked with nazakat-Grace. An elusive spice blend called lazzat-e-taam contains dozens of ingredients. Many dishes use floral scents.

Today the streets of Lucknow retain their historic arched entrances bearing designs of auspicious fish. The skyline is dotted with domes and minarets, and evenings ring with calls to prayer. Street vendors offer a plethora of culinary delights, such as tangy chaats; sheermal, a yeast-based flatbread made with cream and saffron; Monday kebabs, made with water buffalo meat and named after the one-armed chef who invented them; and a decadent lassi topped with heavy cream.

This chai rabdi lassi pays homage to these rich historical and culinary traditions. It embraces the regional love of cream, and the spiced black chai is a nod to its fight for freedom from colonial rule. The flavors of a chai masala – layered with fennel, jaggery and rose – evoke ittr and lazzat-e-taam, coming together in a dish that celebrates nazakat-laden Lucknowi cuisine, filled with decadence and fun.

Nandita Godbole is an Atlanta-based chef and writer (as well as a ceramic artist who created the vessels pictured here). This recipe is taken from her cookbook Masaleydaar: classic Indian spice blendsto be published by Turmeric Press.

Chai Rabdi Lassi

Makes 2 servings

Time: 10 minutes + preparation

For the chai
1 cup of water
1/4 teaspoon chai masala
2 tablespoons jaggery
1 teaspoon Earl Gray
tea leaves

For the lassi
2/3 cup unflavored Greek yogurt
1/2 cup whipped cream
1 teaspoon sugar, or as needed, optional
1 teaspoon of rose water
1 teaspoon grated jaggery
1 teaspoon unroasted Lucknowi fennel, coarsely crushed
5-6 unsalted almonds, slivered
3-4 dried roses or 1 teaspoon dried rose petals, optional
Gold leaf, optional

Start a cup of water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the chai masala and jaggery and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 minute. Add the tea leaves and increase the heat to high. Bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Let stand 2 minutes. Strain and refrigerate the tea for a few hours until ready to use. This tea can be prepared up to a day in advance.

To make the lassi, whisk the yogurt until smooth. Slowly add the reserved chilled tea into the mixture, whisking lightly until the yogurt and tea are combined. Add whipped cream and whisk again until combined. Adjust sweetness to taste with sugar. Stir in rose water and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, stir the prepared lassi to incorporate the whipped cream throughout the lassi. Pour into a chilled glass and let sit for 5 minutes. Garnish with a sprinkle of grated jaggery, Lucknowi fennel and slivered almonds. Finish with dried roses or dried rose petals and a piece of gold leaf if using. Serve immediately.

Culinary advice
Masaleydaar includes a masala chai recipe, and store-bought versions are available. Just make sure you don’t buy one that has tea leaves or added sugars. (Spicewalla and Diaspora Co. both have good versions.) Finer than regular fennel, Lucknowi’s fennel seeds are bright olive green in color and milder in taste, and retain their flavor better throughout the cooking process. cooking. For this recipe, do not substitute regular fennel. Jaggery – unrefined cane sugar – adds a nice caramel flavor to tea that can’t be replicated with honey, but it’s fine to use sugar for lassi. Indian grocers will carry all these ingredients. Gold leaf can be purchased from retailers that offer specialty baking supplies.

This article originally appeared in our May 2023 issue.


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