Monday, January 6, 2014

Tulsi-Adrak ki chai: warmth for your heart.

Boy, is it cold outside! We've had 3 rounds of snow storms, and rain, at least the same many times as well. We even got a snow day at work this past Friday. I entertained myself by making Instant Coffee- Indian style (more on that later) and a perfectly well turned out Banana-Berry bread. Now they predict a severe weather watch for tomorrow as well. 

But this morning, as I smelled my morning cuppa made with the newly acquired prized ingredient while gazing out at the pouring rain, I was reminded of my mom…again. Her go to cure for everything monsoon  - getting drenched, runny nose, body aches - was a cup of milky, aromatic broth, generously infused with wild-growin Tulsi leaves on our balcony. I was so used to tea with Tulsi  that my first couple of years in USA I felt truly deprived and tried desperately to get a plant survive with me. I got them multiple times from our local temples, but the seedling never grew healthy enough to be useful. Then I gave up. I tried using Italian basil in my tea- didn't even come close to my needs. And until recently, I had even forgotten how heavenly a Tulsi infused chai smelled like….But let me start from the beginning…..

Saturday- we took my MIL to a primary care provider in a new neighborhood. The wait there turned out to be over an hour. So I decided to amuse myself by browsing the neighborhood shops after registering - one in particular; an Organic Wholefoods- beckoned.  I can never resist these places.   It wasn't the same as a regular Whole foods store. We browsed the aisles at least 5 times- picking up stuff and deciding that I didn't need most of what I'd picked. Then, on a lark, I pointed out a freezer section filled with Indian food to Anya - trying to make a point that Indian food is "healthy" (my constant battle with my first born…). In return, in the teas section, Anya pointed me to box - "Look Mommy, this has a picture of a woman in a bindi. Isn't Tulsi Indian too?" I had to stop. It was indeed Tulsi. In tea bag like sachets, but without the tea leaves. And if you're thinking that I am blabbering on about old knowledge, let me tell you…I didn't know this existed!! Or I wouldn't have been so….don't know, can't think of the word I need…..excited, maybe?

Adrak Tulsi ki Chai
(Chai latte spiced with ginger and tulsi leaves)

To make my kind of chai….

  •  you boil 1 cup of water with sugar, tea leaves a crushed piece of ginger (to taste) and half the contents of Tulsi leaves from the sachet for 2-3 min. 
  • Add a drizzle of milk. 
  • Let it come to a boil again, then simmer for 1-2 min. 
  • Strain and…..sheer bliss!!!

My two cents: Very early on in USA, I made a new friend from Southern India. She had a huge, beautiful potted Tulsi plant. I asked her to give me some leaves and seeds. "Why?", she asked. "Seeds, to try and grow a plant; and leaves to use in my tea", I said. She was horrified. Refused to give me either…her reason, that Tulsi is sacred and my boiling the leaves is totally unacceptable. She even grew more vigilant of her plant when I visited her! I remember talking to my mom about this, and how hurtful I thought my friend's behavior was. But apparently, in some communities, a Tulsi plant is sacrosanct. They treat it like a daughter (my mom's words) - caring for it, protecting it, and even marrying it (Tulsi Vivah). For them, the only use of this is as an offering in religious rituals. They would consider eating Tulsi equivalent of genocide….

….Obviously, I don't come from the same faith. I grew up eating Tulsi boiled in tea, as well as raw - with a belief that it will fight exam-time memory-loss! And I am mighty glad I know where to replenish my supply from….don't need that plant now!