City Food – Tandoori Chai, Zahra’s Restaurant & Café
An out-of-the-box tea.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
We all know about tandoori chicken and tandoori roti. But… tandoori chai?
That’s more or less what they’re serving at an eatery in that cutely clumsy New Friends Colony Market in south Delhi. This unusual out-of-the-box chai is believed to have been invented by an enterprising tea gourmand in faraway Pune. Whatever, the first thing you spot here at Zahra’s Restaurant & Café (shop no. 44) is a bulky gas-fired tandoor stove filled with earthen kulhars that are glowing translucently red. It’s almost like peering into the inside of a smouldering volcano.
The young tea man now lifts one of these clay-baked cups with a metal tong as solemnly as a scientist in research lab. He carefully places it on a metal container that looks like a chirag or an incense burner. The performance builds up the curiosity.
He then pours the ready-made tea from a thermos into the kulhar. The action, for some reason, produces lots of smoke, and the chai bubbles out from the cup in great angst and fury.
Tea is now served. What’s it going to taste like?
Well, it’s like any ordinary chai except that it’s very, very milky, and very, very sweet, and a tad smoky.
The eatery manager talks mysteriously about all the secret “tandoori masalas” that have apparently gone into the making of this chai. It is possible that a more educated palate might discern all those spicy nuances. Whatever, the sheer spectacle in the brew’s preparation is super-thrilling, worth watching. Come for the show, and to boast to your envious buddies that you are no longer a tandoori chai virgin. A single cup costs 20 rupees.
An unusual tandoori delicacy