Thandai is a regional drink that is refreshing and easy to make. Period. It’s a no-cook recipe. You don’t need fancy kitchen setup or a long list of ingredients. Along with being a traditional drink, it carries a religious significance too.
There are two prominent Hindu festivals which fall in March. The first is Holi, the festival of colours, and the second is Shivaratri, the celebration of divine energy.
Both Indian festivals have distinct rituals & a set of predefined food to eat on that day. Thandai is one of them. Since we know the significance of Thandai and how it’s related to festivals – Let’s understand: What exactly is Thandai?
What is Thandai?
Thandai is derived from Hindi language word called “Thanda”, and it means cool or cold. So Thanda has grown up to Thandai, which means a drink that has cooling and refreshing effects. It’s a famous drink in the northern regions of India.
As said above, this milky drink is associated with festivals which fall in the spring season. As a result, Thandai is also referred to as a pre-summer drink or pre-summer coolant. The history of this drink is ages old. Let me tell you that it’s not a Millenium or 21st-century item.
Is Thandai bhang?
The short answer is NO. Thandai is not bhang. First, understand the difference. Bhang is a unique ingredient, whereas Thandai is a milk-based drink.
Then, what exactly is bhang?
According to Healthline, Bhang is an edible mixture made from the buds, leaves, and flowers of the female cannabis marijuana plant. In India, it’s been added to food and drinks for thousands of years. It is a feature of Hindu religious practices, rituals, and festivals — including the famous spring festival of Holi.
The bottom line is – Thandai is not Bhang, and bhang is not Thandai. Both of them are different. Hence, we will keep aside the bhang topic and continue with our lip-smacking Thanda-Thanda dry fruit dudh.
Having a milk-based drink in my family
The Thandai recipe that I am sharing with you comes from the books of my father-in-law. He wasn’t a cook, but biryani, mutton recipes, and Thandai at Holi festival was his expertise.
We all family member use to call him dadda with love. So, dadda was very particular about the ingredients. He said, No more, no less, balanced taste and flavour make a healthy drink!
There was a small tweak in the ingredient list when dadda made it for kids. He used to skip some of them to make it kid-friendly. I still remember the old days when we all enjoyed this drink.
This drink not only carries religious significance, but it is equally healthy too. Let me share some health benefits that I got to know from my father-in-law (dadda).
Thandai is not only a refreshment. It’s a power pack dose of healthy vitamins and minerals. Let me tell you HOW:
- Dry fruits like muskmelon seeds, almonds, cashews and pista act as a powerhouse. They provide you with energy and keeps you charged during intense physical activity.
- Spices like peppercorn, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg boost immunity. They help you give a tough fight during weakness and illness.
- Fennels seeds help cool down the unwanted heat in the body.
- It’s tummy-filling because there are lots of dry fruits in it. A full glass can help you skip your meals.
- Additionally, it kills the junk food craving, which is the best part about Thandai. It spares us from being a fast-food junkie.
How is Traditional Thandai Made?
Thandai includes two significant ingredients – first is the dry fruit masala, and the second is milk. The masala has dry fruits, spices, and herbs that are carefully blended to make a moisture-free powder. You can store this powder to use later.
On the other hand, milk is refrigerated so that you don’t require ice-cubes. The cold milk is then mixed with the masala powder and served. That’s how I usually make it for my family members, and that’s precisely how dadda used to make.
If possible, use brass utensils to make, serve and store this drink. I don’t know the scientific reason behind using brass utensils.
I know that using brass utensils will help you preserve this milk base drink for a long time. The flavour, colour, texture, taste and aroma of this drink will last long. I have learned this from my experience.
List of Ingredients
Making this super cool drink requires less time and ingredients. Moreover, there’s no cooking, heating, or boiling involved in this recipe, making it a favourite of all. Let’s take a look at the list of ingredients.
Nuts & Spices
Cardamom, Muskmelon Seeds, Pistachio, Fennel Seeds, Almonds, Poppy Seeds, Cashews & Black Pepper boost flavour. All these nuts and spices collectively make an excellent & healthy drink.
Rock Sugar (Mishri)
Sakar is what we call rock sugar here in Gujarat. In northern regions, they call mishri. Its a great substitute for processed sugar and gives a mellow sweet taste. Hence, you can sip this drink as much as you want with a peace of mind that no sugar is going into your body.
I love gulkand, like kids love chyavanprash 😆. Yeah, it’s my kind of chyavanprash 🤪. Okay, now I know that gulkand has processed sugar, and that’s why I have used only 1 tbsp of it. If you have homemade gulkand made using rock sugar, then definitely go for it.
Full fat milk is what I will suggest to you here. Not only full fat but chilled too. By chill, I mean entirely chilled. Put milk in the refrigerator overnight. See, I don’t have any issue if you use ice-cubes in this drink. That’s your choice. But doing it will make your drink watery. That’s the only reason why I recommend using chilled milk and not ice-cubes.
Tips to make the best Thandai ever
The following tips have always helped me whenever I make Thandai at home. I hope they will help you too. Do let me know your tips, if any, in the comments.
- Soak all nuts and spices for 4-6 hours using hot water. If you don’t want to soak, then roast them. Either way, it will add a significant amount of flavour to the drink.
- Use rose water, soaked saffron strands to develop rose or Kesar flavoured drink. Add dry rose petals if available on hand.
- If the mixture is too thick, use water or a couple of ice-cubes. If not, then add a little more milk to balance the volume.
- When served chilled, it tastes excellent. Hence, chill it for a few hours or use overnight chilled milk.
- Don’t have poppy seeds? No worries. Skip them and continue with the recipe. It won’t make a significant difference.
A yummy balance of nuts, spices, and milk will surely tingle your taste buds this season. Let me know in the comments when you make this recipe.