Thursday, 12 April 2012

East is East- Where Taste Buds go to Party!

I live in Vancouver BC, which is a very multi-cultural city. The best part of that is, the tremendous variety of food available here. I have come to love, no... crave sushi, even having it for breakfast! Or nothing better than a delicious green coconut Thai Curry served on a bed of fragrant jasmine rice. A Vietnamese Pho soup makes a lovely lunch, and a Chinese Hot Pot is a great way to share food with friends. However, I must say, that of all the wonderful culinary delights this city has to offer, I have never been able to develop a liking for East Indian food... until now! I discovered an amazing restaurant called East is East and the Chai Gallery and now I am hooked.

The decor is reminiscent of an Arabian tent, with lush Persian carpets lining the floor and walls. The furniture is roughly crafted from raw wood. Candles flicker softly, creating a sensuous mood highlighted by exotic music playing softly in the background. If your lucky, live entertainment including belly dancers and talented musicians will accompany your meal.

The food is a marvellous fusion of Indian and Afghan food with fragrant rice and delicious roti bread to soak up tasty curry dishes and dahl (lentil) soup

They specialise in yummy Chai teas and they tease you with free little cups of Chai to taste. They are all awesome! I am hooked on Chai now! So much so, that I decided to learn how to make my own. Some of my clients are from India so I asked them how they do it. I then googled some more recipes and have come to realise that there are lots of different ways to make Chai and best that you experiment until you find your perfect blend.

So here are some recipes and information regarding Chai that I found. If you haven`t tried this tasty drink yet, I would urge you to try it. I was hesitant at first because it contains black tea which I have never liked the taste of, but you can`t taste it at all in this drink. The fragrant spices and large dose of milk and sugar make this taste more like a hot chocolate infused with pumpkin pie spices.

Chai tea is a unique and wonderful sweetened and spiced creamy milk tea. A more accurate name for it is Masala Chai, masala meaning spiced and chai meaning tea.
Recipe for chai tea in a jar, ginger root and tea strainer homemade gift basket...One thing that makes this chai tea recipe different from others, is the use of crystallised ginger instead of powdered or fresh.
Still, for a spicier chai tea with even more ginger taste, you can add some fresh ginger to the mix.

When purchasing these spices, you can find them in the bulk section of most health food stores and well stocked supermarkets. You'll get the best prices by buying in bulk and you don't have to invest in a huge amount of any given spice. You should also be able to find the loose leaf tea and crystallised ginger in bulk.
Whole cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, cloves, loose leaf black tea plus a pinch of nutmeg for chai tea recipe...
Crystallized ginger, whole cardamom pods and star anise for chai tea mix...

Here's What You'll Need For This Whole Spice Chai Tea Mix

  • 3 teaspoons premium loose leaf black tea such as Darjeeling  
  • 1 two inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 four to six inch vanilla bean cut in 2 inch pieces
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 8 - 10 cardamom pods or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 3 whole black peppercorns
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 inch slice of crystallised ginger
  • Optional to go with mix: 1 inch or larger nub of fresh ginger root with peel (choose ginger root that is plump and juicy not wrinkled)

To Make this a Gift Mix in a Jar: Using a glass spice jar or cellophane bag, add tea, spices and ginger in the order given above. Secure air tight lid and decorated as desired. Include a gift tag with directions for making the chai tea (see below). Optionally, you may choose to include a list of the ingredients in the jar so the recipient can make it for themselves again. If desired, give the spice jar with any or all of the following - a small strainer, coffee mug or tea cup, tea kettle and/or fresh ginger root.
Homemade Recipe Tag - or Print Recipe Gift Tag Here

How to Make Chai Tea Recipe Gift Tag Instructions:
Pour 2 cups cold water into medium size saucepan. Add chai tea spice mix (if using fresh ginger in addition to crystallised, add at least two 1/4 inch slices of peeled fresh ginger to cold water with the spices). Bring to boil. Turn heat down and simmer 10 - 15 minutes. Add 1 to 1 1/2 cups half and half or milk( you can also substitute coconut milk, almond milk, or soy milk for a different flavor) and from 2 Tablespoons to 1/4 cup honey(or brown sugar) to taste. Bring back to simmer. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 2 minutes. Strain tea into cups and serve hot. Makes 2 to 2 1/2 cups of chai tea depending on the amount of milk added.

                              The secret of Indian-style tea 

The best way to get the distinct flavor of Indian tea is:
- take the tea bag or loose tea (preferably Darjeeling or Assamese) and put it in the water while it's cold (yes, cold).
- then boil the water with the tea bag in it.
- once it's boiling add 1-2 spoons of sugar and about 1/4 cup of milk ( or add quantity to taste)
- if you like the taste add Indian Masala when water starts boiling

- then strain and serve.
You'll find that the taste of any tea bag is better when it boils instead of adding boiled water into a tea cup with a tea bag because the tea really "infuses" when you boil the bag with the water.

*While looking at recipes, I came across this one. It`s not a Chai Tea as it has no tea in it  but it sounds like it would be delicious and I plan to try it soon!

Arvinda’s Saffron Scented Almond Chai Spiced Milk ~ Kesar Badam Doodh
2 cup milk
¼ cup ground almonds
1 tsp. Arvinda’s Chai Masala ( or use the spices listed in the Chai recipe above)
4-6 strands saffron
1 tbsp. jaggery or raw cane sugar or honey
Method: In a medium saucepan, bring milk to a boil with almond, Arvinda’s Chai Masala, saffron strands. Sweeten with raw cane sugar, honey or jaggery. Serves 2.

My absolute favorite part of my meal at East is East is one of their deserts called Eastern Ecstasy. I have been known to stop by there just for this desert!! I love it so much, I decided to try and recreate it at home. I am lucky that with such a large East Indian population here, the ingredients are not hard to find. I was able to get everything I needed at a store called Fruiticana on No.5 Road and Cambie in Richmond BC.

The desert consists of warm rice pudding( Kheer) with something called Gulab Jamun ( a sweet sticky bun) warmed and served with vanilla ice cream topped with crushed pistachios, rose water and cardamom. The temperatures of the hot and cold, the sweet tastes of rose water and vanilla ice cream, the addictive flavors of cardamom and pistachio combine to make this a party in your mouth!! At Fruiticana you can buy the Kheer and Gulub Jamun in the freezer section and then it`s just a matter of assembling it all at home. For those that can`t buy them ready made, here are the recipes.

Kheer - Payasam - Payas - Rice Pudding
This creamy rice pudding is delicately flavoured with cardamom and full of nuts. It's a great dessert for anytime of the year. In south and east India versions of it are made for certain festivals. In the South, Kheer is called Payasam and in the east it is known as Payesh.


  • 2 litres full-cream milk
  • 1 can (400 gms) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • 50 gms almonds blanched and slivered
  • 50 gms raisins
  • A few strands of saffron
  • Rose petals to garnish (optional)


  • Wash the rice well and soak for half an hour in enough water to cover it fully.
  • Put the milk, condensed milk and sugar in a deep, thick-bottomed pan and boil. When the milk comes to a boil, add the rice and simmer. Cook till the milk thickens and reduces to half its original volume.
  • Add the almonds, raisins and cardamom and cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Turn off the fire and add the saffron. Stir well.
  • Allow the kheer to cool, then chill.
  • Serve cold garnished with rose petals. ( I heated mine in the microwave just before serving with the ice cream, I layered it on the bottom of the dish, then put a warm Gulab Jamon in the centre, surrounded by three scoops of ice cream, drizzled the whole thing with a few teaspoons of rose water and topped with crushed pistachio`s and a light dusting of cardamom powder)

How to Make Gulab Jamun                    Video How to

Gulab Jamun is among India's most popular desserts! This delicious dessert consists of dumplings traditionally made of thickened or reduced milk, soaked in rose flavoured sugar syrup.
It gets its name from two words: Gulab which means rose (for the rose flavoured syrup) and Jamun which is a kind of deep purple coloured Indian berry (the cooked dumplings are dark brown in colour). Serve Gulab Jamun warm or at room temperature; by itself or topped with ice cream!

Gulab Jamun Ingredients:

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tbsp cardamom powder
  • 2 tbsps rose water
  • 3 cups powdered milk
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup thickened/ heavy/ double cream
  • Vegetable/ canola/ sunflower oil for deep frying

Mix the Gulab Jamun Batter

Mix the water and sugar in a deep pan and boil till all the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the flame and add the cardamom powder and rose water. Mix well and keep aside. Mix the powdered milk, all purpose flour and baking powder well. Add a little of the thickened cream at a time to them and knead to make a dough that is soft but not sticky.

Fry the Gulab Jamun Batter

Divide the dough into walnut sized balls and roll between slightly greased palms till smooth. Heat the oil for deep frying in a wide pan on a low to medium flame. Fry the dumplings, stirring often to brown on all sides. Do not cook on very high heat as the dumplings will burn on the outside and remain raw inside! When cooked, drain (with a slotted spoon), remove the dumplings from the oil and transfer immediately into the sugar syrup.
Repeat this till all the dumplings are cooked and added to the syrup. Allow the dumplings to soak in the syrup for 2 hours. Some serving suggestions: Warm gulab jamuns with ice cream; gulab jamuns with thick cream; gulab jamuns garnished with shavings of dried nuts like pistachio and almond.

While looking for these recipes I stumbled onto this site which I have bookmarked for future reference.
All Indian Recipes - there are some amazing looking recipes here. I am going to start in the drink section with this one for a delicious sounding fruity drink

Bon appetit!

Did you like this post? Share it! Tweet it! "Like" The Eclectic Ark on Facebook! Thanks, your awesome,


  1. The tea sounds wonderful. I've heard of it, but never tried it. I was thinking about you just today. I plan to come to Steveston on Tuesday and will be spending the night at the hotel (if I can get a room). Wondered if you are going to be around and have some time to meet. I plan on getting there around noonish and will be leaving about noon on Wednesday. - Margy

  2. Hi Rhianna, good to meet you at last. I have been following your blog for a while now and I love what you have done to your houseboat. I think we have very similar styles and ways of thinking. I adore Indian food ant follow a couple of blogs that have some really good recipes on. I recommend Yummy Tummy blog. I will try out you chai tea recipe. I look forward to getting to know you and picking your brains from ime to time! X

  3. Just checking in to see how things are going. Mom has been up in Powell River with me for most of the summer, so I haven't made it to Steveston in a while. How are things with the float (Ark). Did you ever get any decision from the city? I'll let you know when I'm headed back to town. I know you have a tight schedule, but maybe a quick coffee or something again. - Margy


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave me a comment, Rhianna

The Eclectic Ark