Friday, August 8, 2008

Chai Biskut with Vrij

Do not kill me for publicising my personal blog on Ambrosia. But the title just gives you an idea of whats being served and by whom.
If there is any 'ready food' that symbolises the city of Hyderabad much the way the Vada Pau does for Mumbai, then it has to be Osmania Biscuits with Irani chai served in the umpteen cafes that one can find splattered across the city. Of course the Biryani, the Haleem, the Lukhmi or the Double ka meetha are the choiciest preparations from the land of the Nawabs, but they sure do not come under the 'ready food' or snack category. So, more about them later!
Now, lets get started with some Irani chai.
Irani Chai was introduced to Hyderabad more than four centuries ago during the reign of the Qutb Shahi Dynasty. It is believed that the fifth ruler in the dynasty, Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah, who was by far the most successful of all in the dynasty had spread his trade to many parts of the world and had special relations with the Persians. There was a constant flow of businessmen and envoys between Iran and Hyderabad since then. Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah built the Charminar in Hyderabad in 1591 and after that the trade flourished even more. Many Persian artisans and businessmen even migrated to Hyderabad and settled down here. It was thus that the Irani cuisine found its place in the ethos of Hyderabad.
Tea as a drink was quite prevalant in Hyderabad since a long time, but it was the amalgamation of the Irani culture with the local flavour that led to the making of the Irani chai. Traditionally, Indian tea was made as a decoction of tea leaves in boiling water and a hint was cow's milk was added to bring the colour and restrain the bitterness of the tea. The Iranis used tea powder/dust mixed with flavoured tea leaves to make their tea. Since the tea dust was made by pounding the dried tea leaves, it was a strong concoction. To reduce the bitterness, more milk was used by the Iranis when compared to the local style. Special flavours of teas were also made subsequently by the Iranis which came to become standard concoctions.
4 cups cow's milk
4 cups water
4 tea spoons tea dust
4 tea spoons tea leaves
2 pieces Cardomon(elaichi)
Sugar to taste

To make:
Heat 4 cups of water till it starts to boil. Simultaneously, boil 4 cups of cow's milk. To the boiling water, add 4 tea spoon full tea dust and 4 tea spoon full tea powder. It is advisable to use fresh tea dust/powder rather than processed and packed ones. Take two pieces of cardomon, powder the inside stuff and add both the powder and the outer cover to the boiling water. Keep boiling the tea water till about 25% of it evaporates.
Sugar can either be added to the milk while it boils or can be separately added to the cup of tea. If its the latter, then add a tea spoon ful sugar to a cup. Now strain milk into the cup so that its half full. Stir to mix the sugar. Then strain the tea water into a separate vessel using a muslin cloth. Only a cloth can effectively strain dust tea. Take the strained tea water and add to the cup of tea to the desired strength.
To give company to the Irani chai, we can have some Osmania Biscuits.

Osmania Biscuits were thought to have been named after the erstwhile Nizam of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan, even though their origins might actually date back to much earlier. It was well known to be a favorite of the British who would get the biscuits procured from Hyderabad and shipped to the Old Blighty!
2 cups Maida
3 Table spoons Natural Butter / Vanaspati
One tea spoon Salt
Half tea spoon Baking Soda
One Tea spoon Sugar
To make:
Take two cups of Maida in a vessel and add three table spoons of natural butter or Vanaspati(Dalda). Do not use pasteurised butter of the shelves or oil. Add the salt and baking soda to this and make a thick dough kneading it with water. Make sure that even though the dough is thick, all the maida has actually been mixed properly. Add sugar only if you want the biscuits to have a tinge of sweetness too.
Pat the dough into a thick round circle about one centimetre thick. Cut out small 4cm diameter circle biscuits out of this using a steel katori or glass. Paint the top surface of the biscuits with some butter. Place these in a tray to be placed in an oven.
Bake these biscuits for about 10 mins or so. The top should become golden brown. Take them out of the oven, make Irani chai and experience the zaika of Hyderabad!
A few modifications to the above recipes that can and should be tried.
* For the Irani Chai, instead of cardomom, add a dash of sonth (dried ginger) and crushed black pepper corns. This is a sure shot remedy for niggling common colds and 'gale ki kharaash'!
* If you eat eggs too, do this to the biscuits. Just before the biscuits are about to turn golden, get them off the oven. Paint some egg white on the surface of the biscuits and continue the baking process as usual. Adds another dimension to the Osmania biscuits.

- Vrij


  1. Omg.....its just time for sunrise n I feel like chai n biscuits. I am surely gonna try the irani chai today. thanks for the recipie

    btw i really liked your post cos it does not only give the recipes but also talks about cultural influence, reinforcing the fact that this food blog is unique as the cooks r from different cultures ;)

    reminds me of the song from anu malik - ek garam chai ki pyali ho

  2. :)Absolutely shamelessly promoting your blog.. lol [jus kidding]

    hmmm, would love for an Irani chai and biscuit.. weather is just perfect.. plus i love tea..recently bot a pack of tea masala(mix of lovely spices-cardomon,cloves,dried ginger]..
    btw, i thot the biscuits in hydie were called Karachi biscuits...:)

  3. that's the kind of post that i like.It had everything explained properly.
    like Cardomon(elaichi),sonth (dried ginger),
    i never knew these names.thank you vrij.

    i like the egg-whites idea.All i need now is an oven [phew].
    Thank you for this amazing post buddy.

  4. TEA
    Sipping right now...

  5. Na chai pasand hai na biscuits. But aapka personal blog pasand hai!

  6. @ Mia

    Thanks for the complis.. every cuisine has a story to tell and I guess Ambrosia will keep featuring the same.

  7. @ Aaarti

    :) I guess I'm entitled to promote my blog too!

    Cool.. so when are we gonna have a taste of the masala tea? And as u say, the weather is just purrfect!!

    There is a famous bakery in Hyd called Karachi Bakery which makes excellent biscuits. Osmania, cream, fruit biscuits, etc. Some people have started calling them Karachi biscuits.

  8. @ V

    Thanx a lot for the appreciation.

    Yep.. get an oven and get cooking! Btw, the chai does not need an oven!

  9. @ Sneha

    Kabhi kabhi chai aur biscuits reality mein bhi try kar lena chahiye!

    Thanx anyways :)

  10. hey i really wanna see how those biscuits look! try looking fo a picture!

  11. Nice one Vrij, especially coz it gives the whole background and establishes relation between the food and culture of the place...

    i second Gunj.. ny pic of the biscuits??

    thnx for the recipe!

  12. Vety eruditely written...thanks for the post Vrij...

    to add to the culture of Iranis...the Fort area in Bombay - where today stand most of the big banks in the corners of major intersections were say 15 years back all Irani restaurants...a era of culture in itself...where we were served the irani chai...

    the other ready to eat stuff from there...was maska pau (the ladi pau), the egg bhurjee/omelette..and many such things which had its speacial flavor...

    damn - now i remember the old ad jingle "yaad aa gaya mujko woh gujra zamana" "woh khusboo bhini bhini zayka khana" :)

  13. @mia...u want me to read abt more food?? kyun....aaaaaaakhir kyun??!!

    @vrij...tea dust? not tea leaves?? *confused*

  14. have never come across anyone giving recipe for preparing tea :) this is novel and nice :)

    i m a tea lover and have had Irani chai a few times whenever I hit any such joint ... its awesome ... thnks for the recipe info [not sure i m gonna take efforts to do this myself though :)]

    some of my office colleagues from Hyderabad do get Karachi biscuits wheneva they visit home ... are these the same as Osmania biscuits?

  15. Vrij BOSS!!
    Irani Chai and Osmania biscuits -that is a heavenly combination. I remember being in Hyd last year during Diwali time for work and i was addicted to the Charminar area. after clicking the Charminar from various angles, i settled down in Nimrah Cafe. I just ordered Irani Chai and Osmania Biscuits. Man the light as feather biscuits were like pure ambrosia on that day. N its not just the food, but the whole crowded atmosphere of Hyderabadi Muslims all around me, speaking in a typical Hyderabadi style, "Miyan tumhe banjara Hills ki 'busaan' (bus:D) wo afzalgunj me milegi. yaha ki saari busaan wahi jaati hai". man it was just too good.
    moreover it was fabulous to see Hindus celebrating Diwali with crackers and diyas in a dominantly Muslim area. that was a classic case of UNITY.
    take care

  16. thanks for sharing the info of Irani Chai and Osmania biscuits :).
    now i know how irani chai is made and history behind it!

  17. I like tea..but bikkies, not all that much. :)

    tnxx Vrij! Interesting post here.


  18. ye gaye ka dudh milana jaruri hai..bhains ka nahi chalega kya..i do not find any speciality in irani chai...:)

  19. thanks a lot Vrij bhai!! :D
    i wil soon try the chai and will tell u how much i like it!! :D


  20. This is a killer! I have to make these biscuits!! ;)

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