Indians everywhere are gearing up for Holi, the wonderful, vibrant festival of colors celebrated on March 23rd this year. It is my favorite of all Indian festivals (and we have quite a few), simply because it’s the most fun!
For the uninitiated, Holi signifies the arrival of spring, as well as the victory of good over evil (I know, this is a recurring theme in many Hindu festivals). It is a day when everyone, young and old, comes out on the streets to celebrate the carnival of colors. It starts mildly with friends and family applying dry color on each other’s cheeks. As the day progresses, spray guns (pichkari) and water-filled balloons come out and everyone is fair game. Buckets of water are dumped on unsuspecting strangers, passers-by are dunked into fountains… all is forgiven on this day. After all, Holi hai (it is Holi)!
The merriment continues at least until lunchtime. Then people start making their way home, faces barely recognizable even by their loved ones, and try their best to clean all the color from their bodies, hair and orifices… no easy task and not always successful! And then everyone sits down for a sumptuous and generally vegetarian homemade feast, featuring malpua, rabdi, gujiya, puri, and of course, thandai!
Thandai is a chilled and gorgeously spiced drink made from milk and almonds flavored with saffron, peppercorns, fennel seeds and cardamom. It is like nothing you have ever tasted before and nutritious and cooling to boot.
That’s the G-rated version of thandai, though. The R-rated version is made by spiking the regular thandai with bhang — a beverage made from cannabis, a form of marijuana. Intoxicating, you say? Oh yes! It helps get rid of your inhibitions while you participate in such a public festival, I guess. But I stick to the regular version, thank you!
This time, I decided to shake things up with thandai by adding a splash of Baileys Irish Cream. It is less intoxicating than bhang, but it definitely has a kick and is so delicious!
Here’s my recipe below.
For the almond spice mix:
- 1/8 cup whole almonds
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
- 10 black peppercorns
For the thandai:
- 2 cups milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- A few strands of saffron
- 2 teaspoons slivered pistachios for garnish
- 1 tablespoon rose water
- 1 teaspoon dried rose petals (optional)
- 4 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream (optional)
Using a coffee grinder or food processor, grind the ingredients of the almond spice mix to a fine dust.
Boil the milk with sugar and a few strands of saffron.
Add the ground powder from the almond mix to the boiled milk and mix well.
Refrigerate the mix for at least 4 hours to infuse all the flavors.
Strain the drink, add rose water and Baileys Irish Cream (optional), then mix.
Garnish drink with some slivered pistachios, a few threads of saffron and dried crushed rose petals.
NEXT: Start planning your own gathering with an Evite invitation!