Chai Masala

This spice mixture is the holy grail for me, when it comes to my teas or Dhoodh Chai (a traditional drink that has a combination of tea and milk). How you like your tea is matter of habit, more than anything.

At my in-laws’ place, most of the people like the basic tea which has tea, milk, water and sugar. The milk-water ratio is 50:50 for them. But, at my mother’s side, the teas are loaded with this masala. A normal person will start getting hiccups if you take a few sips of my mother’s tea. And the milk-water ratio is 30:70–so it’s thin in consistency and darkish brown in colour. We don’t drink our tea in China cups but in small steel tumblers and steel plates (that resemble saucers).

Usually, mum gives me this masala so that I’m always stocked with it. When my mum visits me, she would expect me to have some fresh ginger for her teas; or, chances are there, she might carry a large piece in her bag. Ginger and chai masala is a must in her tea. And gradually, I have noticed that I can’t do without it too. Just the ratio can be different.

Recipe: My mother’s Chai Masala

Ingredients: 10-15 gm cardamom pods, 20-25 cloves, 50 gm black pepper, 1 piece of nutmeg (jaiphal), 1 piece of dry ginger or saunth or 3 gm ginger powder (the size of the nutmeg and the dry ginger should be almost the same).

Method: Chop the nutmeg into pieces and then put it in the grinding jar. Add all the whole spices in and churn till you can get a coarse powder out of it. Store it in a clean container. I like to add 2 to 3 pinches of this masala in two cups of tea.

An old melody


I’m at my mum’s place these days, as mum wants to buy my outfits for my brother’s wedding that’s coming up next month. But I have decided to stay back for more as we need to take care of the Sangeet (one of the most important wedding functions for us). From selecting the songs to convincing the family members that things would be all right at the Sangeet, there is a lot that needs to be looked into.

Today, however, the best part came when I got to know that the ladies of the family (who are in the same city) need to make badis to mark the start of the wedding festivities in the house. When my mum announced this to me in the morning, I was delighted as making badis in the morning or noon sunlight on the terrace is something I could recollect from my childhood. I absolutely loved it as a kid when mum used an old cotton saree to make badis. Never did I care about its recipe, but it was just her and one of my aunts drying the badis in the sun and the whole thing never ever looked tedious to me.


Mum soaked 1.25 (an auspicious number for such important events) kg of yellow moong dal for a few hours, and made its paste with a dash of turmeric powder. We took the paste in a white tub, a big spoon, a small copper jug (with water and mango leaves), and a copper plate (with kumkum powder and rice) for a little pooja (prayer) that was supposed to be done before making the badis. Now, not always do we perform the little pooja, but because this activity was only a signal of the start of the wedding preparations, the pooja had to be done. Each lady got a tikka on her forehead (with soaked kumkum powder and rice grains). There were a few plastic covers that we spread at one of the corners of the terrace that had some shadow. Then, there were those plastic airtight bags, a pair of scissor, a small piece of jaggery and a bottle of oil that neighbour aunty suggested to spread on the red plastic sheet before making badis.

Soon, the ladies started singing songs for lord Ganesha and drawing the badis. Some ladies drew broken lines and some of them created dots with the dal paste that was filled in the zip-lock plastic bags. The scissor was used to create a small hole before adding the paste though. These badis were supposed to be kept in the sun for the entire day. In the end of little activity, one of my aunts gave little jaggery blocks (decorated with gota lace) as a token to thank them.


Later in the evening, mum, dad and I went to the terrace and brought all the badis home. The badis had sticked well on the plastic, so we had to use a knife to remove them quickly.

In Jaiselmer, we use badis in sabzis like Papad ki sabzi, Gawar fali badi kachari ki sabzi, etc. All ladies of my family have a bottle of badi in their kitchens. And somehow, it’s always considered auspicious. I’m assuming one of the reasons could be the many health benefits of moong dal.

Whatever the case might be, I’m always curious to know what happened in the kitchen when my mum and beloved aunts were growing up as kids. How tough their life must be and but, yet so beautiful. “Oh, we had no money. We never had the luxury of unlimited and family food. But we were still happy. Not like these days where people are always dissatisfied with whatever they get to eat,” says my aunt, whom we call Bhua (my dad’s sister). These days, there are endless kitchen products available in the stores that we fascinate for. I wonder who fascinates homemade things like badis.