What is Thandai?
Thandai is a cooling drink that is prepared during the Holi Festival. With the beginning of the hot days during Holi festival and also Shivratri, it’s ideal to serve cold Thandai to the guests. Actually, when one says thandai, it refers to the powder or syrup used to make the drink and also to the drink itself. Ideally made with dairy milk, one can easily substitute it with almond, cashew nut, soya or coconut milk. As a matter of fact, in Hindi it means cooling.
There are two forms:
- Powdered form where nuts, poppy seeds, pepper, fennel seeds, cardamom, dried rose petals, saffron, seeds like melon, pumpkin, are crushed to make the powder.
- The syrup form – The ingredients are crushed into a smooth paste and added to sugar syrup. It is then strained through a cheesecloth to obtain the flavored syrup.
How is this drink prepared?
Usually, milk is boiled the previous day of the festival, thandai powder or syrup are added and the flavors are allowed to infuse into the milk overnight. Before the festival, either the flavored milk is put in the freezer to cool or ice cubes are added.
Personally, I love milk be it plain, with chocolate, rose syrup, kesar(saffron), etc etc. The options are endless. No doubt then Thandai too is one of my favorite drinks. Not only cooling but it provides the necessary nutrients and energy to get through the hot festival day.
Traditional Method of making Thandai
Commercially prepared thandai syrup and powder usually contains artificial food colour and flavors. Therefore, I don’t like to use them. Traditionally the paste is made by grinding all the ingredients using a sil batta (a large flat stone and a stone rolling pin) to a paste and then is strained and squeeze in a muslin cloth to obtain the flavour. I personally prefer just grinding the dry ingredients to a powder and storing it as I feel that the traditional method results in wastage of fine and expensive ingredients.
- With so many people wanting healthier options, the sugar can be replaced by using honey, maple syrup, agave nectar or stevia.
- Homemade thandai powder or syrup taste will vary according to the proportions of ingredients used. Some prefer a slightly hot taste, therefore will add extra peppercorns and some like it sweetish.
- Replace dairy milk with almond, cashew nut, soya, oat, coconut or any other vegan milk.
Can the Powder or Syrup be stored?
Due to the humid climate in Mombasa, I usually store the powder in the fridge in an airtight container. The syrup too is best stored in the fridge if the climate is humid where you live. I usually use up the powder in a months time. Its best to prepare small quantities for freshness.
Is Thandai only used in milk?
Not at all, thandai powder or syrup are used in a variety of different ways. Here are some ways you can make something different for Holi Festival to please your guests, all thandai flavored:
- Thandai Muffins
- Thandai Chia Pudding
- Malpua too is associated with Holi, so a combination of thandai and malpua is awesome, check out Thandai Malpua with Strawberry Compote.
- Thandai Cookies
- Thandai Kulfi
- Thandai Mousse
- Serve Sujata’s Thandai Flavoured Fruit Punch.
- Bake Swati’s Chocolate Mawa Thandai Muffins.
- Try Preethi’s Thandai Nectarine Mini Gallete.
- Or Poonam’s Eggless Thandai Cookies with tutti frutti added to it.
- Sasmita’s Kesar Phirni with Thandai Crust
- Gluten free
- For vegan option use plant based milks
- Satvik, as no alcohol is added in this recipe
1 tbsp dried rose petals
6-8 tsp sugar
4 cups cold milk
- Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods.
- Roast aniseeds, poppy seeds, cardamom seeds, peppercorns over very low flame till you get the aroma of the aniseeds and poppy seeds will begin to pop.
- Take the pan off the heat. Mix in the saffron.
- Let the mixture cool down.
- Put the spice mixture, nuts and seeds in a coffee grinder and process it into a fine powder.
- Divide the powder between 4 glasses.
- Add the cold milk and sugar. Mix well.
- Add crushed ice and serve immediately.
- You can add powdered sugar to the mixture and keep it. I don’t add it as I would like to use other sweeteners for diabetics and those who don’t take sugar.
- If you prefer a slightly pungent taste add a few more peppercorns.
- Serve as a dessert. Instead of ice top it with kesar pista or vanilla ice cream.
- Store the extra masala in an airtight container in the fridge.
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