There are a lot of things I miss here in Beijing, decent skincare, “normal” toilets, and my friends and family of course. But MOST of all I miss my home cuisine, and the ingredients that are easy to buy in Western supermarkets. I wanted to recreate some foods that my family in Beijing misses, share my recipes, and where to get the ingredients. If you see a blonde lady on a bike with a toddler and bags of groceries, that’s me, on the hunt for little pieces of home.
Hummus was the first recipe last week, this dip got lots of discussions going. I have been asking around for what kinds of foods and dishes people missed from home. Chai tea is something that came up quite a few times. My colleague drinks a Chai masala tea mix in the morning, and it makes the office smell “happy.” I have to admit that I have asked for a Chai tea latte at the Starbucks a few times in Beijing, but no such luck. When Chai tea latte is available at Starbucks, I ask on hot summer days for a “frappuccino Chai tea.” It will blow your minds! Of course Starbucks Chai tea latte has got nothing on homemade Chai tea.
Masala Chai literally means “mixed spice tea.” It is a flavored tea beverage with a mixture of Indian spices and herbs. The way families make Chai can differ widely per region and country. There has been a growth in interest in Chai all over the world, and I have tried many recipes myself. It warms the soul, and the house will smell delicious. I did not invent Chai tea myself (though I wish I did), but did put together this recipe. Different spices can be used. Not everybody will agree with my way but hopefully we can have some exchange of recipes. If you like an ingredient, add extra, if you dislike an ingredient, omit it.
Where and how to find the ingredients in Beijing: fresh ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, and black peppercorns are all available at Carrefour supermarkets. They have scoop it yourself bins with all kinds of dried spices, so you can pick exactly how much you need. Cardamom pods can be found at the Sanyuanli market, as stall 77 sells little bags of pods. A sweet Chinese lady explained to me when I arrived in Beijing that I should always use the same vendor on a market. They will get to know you and give a sweeter price. Vanilla extract can be found at Jenny Lou’s. I use the extra strong tea bags from Mark’s & Spencers, because I like my Chai with an extra bit of kick, but any kind of black tea will do. Before I add the tea bags, I keep some of the liquid aside so I can offer some to my toddler with milk.
1 liter water
1\2 liter milk
3 cardamom pods
4 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 star anise
1 sliced piece of fresh ginger root
1/3 cup honey
- Bring the water to a boil. Add all the dried spices and fresh ginger. Turn down to a simmer and let simmer for 30 min. Boiling the spices will turn the liquid bitter.
- Add the milk and bring back up to a boil, and immediately turn off the heat.
- Add the tea bags and let steep to whichever strength desired.
- Strain the mixture.
- Add honey to taste.
- Drink warm or over ice.
Pauline van Hasselt has just started working for Beijing Kids. Born in Wassenaar, The Netherlands, she moved with her husband and her 3 year-old daughter to Beijing in June of this year. Prior she lived in the Netherlands, Belgium, Paraguay, Texas, and London, studying and working as a chef. Pauline enjoys biking around Beijing, finding markets and new restaurants, reading crime and fantasy books in bed, and most importantly, turning her house into a home for her family.