Tuesday, October 19, 2021

#Holi: Bhang anyone? OK, thandai then!

Three recipes for that cooling summer drink, thandai

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

It is not quite the weather for thandai at Holi in Australia.

As a summer drink of milk and cooling spices, it is popular at Holi in India as summer is just setting in. At Holi in Australia, we are heading into winter.

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Yet it is nice to remember the tradition, and often you can still get a really warm day on Holi, so it is not exactly like having mulled wine in an Australian Christmas.

Plus, if you’re having bunch of friends over (now that restrictions are eased), thandai is something that’ll make your guests go “Wow!” almost immediately.

Go on, get those earthernware tumblers out!

We have for you three different recipes here – the authentic versions, for those diehard MasterChef kind of home cooks); a quick jhatpat version sent to me by my friend Neelam Vasudevan, and of course, a cheat’s version.


  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 4 green cardamom
  • 2 tbsp rosewater (optional)
  • A few strands saffron
  • 2 cups water, or as needed

Heat milk with sugar until sugar dissolves completely. Put in saffron strands and keep aside to cool.

Dry grind fennel seeds, poppy seeds and cardamom to as fine a powder as you can get.

Soak almonds for about 10 minutes, then give them a whirl in the microwave for about a minute or so. Drain, and rub the almonds in a tea-towel to remove peel. Blend the almonds into a paste, adding just enough water. You might find you have to keep stopping to add more water.

When the paste is smooth, introduce the ground spice mix, and about half a cup of water. Blend again till smooth.

Strain the mix through a fine strainer or cheesecloth. Retain the liquid.

Put the residue back into the blender, add another half cup water and blend again. Strain again to extract the liquid.

Do this once more if you feel there is life left in the residue, or else discard.

Pour almond extract into cold milk, add rose water if using, and chill.

To serve, pour over crushed ice.

(I’ve heard of all kinds of nuts used, magaz (melon seeds), pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, black and white peppercorns, fresh or dried rose petals, even gulkand, rose petal preserve).

indian spiced drink thandai
Source: Raksanand/ Wikimedia Commons

Neelam Vasudevan’s Thandai

  • Few strands of saffron
  • 3 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 12 almonds
  • 12 cardamom
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 glasses chilled milk
  • 2 drops rose essence

Mix all the dry items and grind until fine. Transfer this powder into a blender. Add sugar and ¼ cup milk and blend till pasty. Add the remaining milk, rose essence and blend for 30 seconds. Strain and pour into glass. Serve chilled.

Cheat’s version

Not quite sure if you’re up for the challenge? It’s alright, we’ve got the simplest recipe just for you: use condensed milk! Put half a tin to about a litre of milk (or a litre and a half), and the nuts and spices and rose water as above.

READ ALSO: How a NSW farm is growing Indian cuisine’s favourite spice, saffron

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Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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