Masala Chai Gummy Bears #FoodieReads
When the kids were younger, I made homemade gummy bears often. I knew what was in them - juice or tea - and not much else. And they loved that I made them especially for them. After reading Scent of a Garden by Namrata Patel. I was inspired to make a masala chai gummy bear.
On the Page
After losing her sense of smell - due to COVID - perfumer, Asha 'Poppy' Patel, flees Paris and returns to Napa Valley where she grew up in a family of hoteliers. Early in her life, her grandmother and mother discovered her supernatural sense of smell. They called her 'Super Nose' and pushed and molded her into a career in perfume. Without her sense of smell, Asha is adrift and begins to question what she really wants to do with herself.
Raised by her paternal grandmother while her parents built a hotel empire, she spent countless hours in her grandmother's garden at the hotel. There she learned about herbs, flowers, and honed her passion for combing their aromas.
Her best friend, Millie, is also the sister of her first love, Neel. Though that relationship was a secret and ended when Asha left for Paris at seventeen-years-old, when she comes home, he is living with her family and she recognizes that she never stopped loving him.
This is a hilarious look at extended families, the immigrant experience, and children who simultaneously frustrate and make their parents proud.
There is plenty of food in the novel. Neel cooks several meals for Asha and I was tempted by this breakfast: "Asha plated for herself. The eggs were in folds and glistened with butter. There were little chunks of potatoes along with the onions and peppers. She’d missed identifying them with her nose but didn’t beat herself up over it. Instead, she sprinkled shredded mozzarella, then added slices of avocado and a touch of salt. Before she rolled the naan, Neel stopped her and added a dollop of green chutney and raita."
Mimi and Leela, Millie and Neel's grandmother and Asha's grandmother respectively, prepared a traditional Gujarati thali with fifteen different items. "Each bragged about their specialty, teased about the other’s dish being too simple or not spicy enough."
Asha and Millie eat out several times near Millie's apartment in San Francisco. "The server came over and Millie ordered for the table—mushroom toast, sesame flatbread with smoked salmon, sweet potato hash, a salad, and a side of bacon. 'It’s half the menu, so you’ll have something you like'."
And there are lots of cocktails, including lychee and pomegranate martinis. But, in the end, I was inspired by Asha's career shift. Slight spoiler alert: she decides to go into making tea blends!
On My Plate
'Chai' means 'tea.' So, when Americans say 'chai tea', they are being redundant - tea tea. Masala means 'spiced'. So I decided to make a masala chai and utilize that to make gummy bears.
Also, this passage made me chuckle when Asha accompanied her grandmothers and their friends on a wine tasting bike ride. "'I smuggled some snacks.' Ming Na, a former ER doctor who’d retired to the area with her husband a few years ago, unzipped her fanny pack and took out several small baggies and placed them on the wooden picnic table. 'Cheez-Its, Trader Joe’s chocolate-covered almonds, Goldfish, and gummy bears.' 'Goldfish are the only kind of fish I eat.' Mimi popped one in her mouth as she took a seat." Gummy bears it was!
4 whole cloves
2 white cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 star anise
3 cups water
1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1⁄2 cup milk
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons black tea (decaf is best, especially if you are sharing with kids)
1/2 cup chai latte
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 Tablespoon organic granulated sugar
also needed bear mold (mine is a gummy bear silicone ice cube tray)
Crush the cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, and star anise with a mortar and pestle. Place the pieces in a medium saucepan. Add water, ground ginger, and black pepper. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let steep for 5 minutes.
Pour in the milk and whisk in the sugar. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the tea. Let steep for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how strong you like it.
Strain out the leaves and spices. Pour into individual mugs and serve hot.
Pour 1/2 cup chai latte into a small saucepan. Whisk in the sugar. Sprinkle the gelatin over the top and let sit for at least 5 minutes. Not all of the gelatin will absorb the tea; that's okay.
After five minutes, heat the mixture over a low to medium heat until the gelatin is dissolved and the mixture is thickened and clear. You can pour directly into the mold from the saucepan, if you like. I don't trust my neatness without a spout, so I transferred the mixture to a measuring cup.
Pour the mixture into the molds. You can pour all the way to the top, since it doesn't expand. Place the mold on a flat tray and put them in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes. Carefully unmold the bears.