The goray are long gone from the subcontinent, but they have left behind a ritual that any self-respecting, serious Chai-drinking desi will never, ever give up…and that is, the love of indulging in chai and rusk at tea time! Oh yes, to dunk that meetha, crispy rusk in a cup filled with the heavenly brew is nothing short of a divine pleasure. Chai and rusk is not just a habit, it is a tradition and for me, and the lightly jallay huway rusk from my ‘down the road’, Kamal Bakery, or any local bakery in Pakistan, are all I need to take my Tea Time to another level entirely!.
Come morning, day, evening or night, chai and rusk can be eaten with a variety of add-ons, some of which I’m about to divulge to you now. Needless to say, this article was initiated after a session of both, in the crisp, cool Basel evening. With the onset of winters, I miss home even more, so I always take out time in the day to luxuriate in that Tapal Chai ka Mug that can take me to any place I want to go to in my dreams- let’s just start with Tea Time 🙂
1. Malai, Jam and Rusk
This is the ultimate combination. The malai must be layered on spoon-by-spoon with a very light flavouring of jam, dotted over the top. The jam must be strawberry flavoured, no other will do. And now, go ahead and savour that rusk, one bite at a time, in between your sips of tea. Aaaah – what a perfect blend of flavours!
(The gora version consists of clotted cream, jam and scones), but I can tell you, the desis do as the desis will and wow! That’s all I have to say to this one.
2. Malai, Cheeni and Rusk
For as long as I can remember, my aunts would offer me a malai-layered rusk, sprinkled with a teaspoonful of cheeni, as a mid-afternoon or tea time snack.Yes, the white, crystallized sugar that is a complete no-no in today’s clean eating, brown sugar, Stevia world. But OMG – when your teeth sink into the sweet creaminess of this combo, the sugar crystals emitting a candied-crunchiness, coupled with the crisp rusk beneath each bite, you will be transported to your childhood days – when malai and cheeni ruled the world!
(The nearest gora version of malai-cheeni rusk might be a frosted doughnut) – let me tell you…it doesn’t compare – the doughnut, I mean of course!
3. Cheddar Cheese and Rusk
Some would say this is a relatively new phenomenon, but I recall slicing a slab of Green’s cheese, yes, remember the label? Sharp, salty cheddar with meethay, crisp rusks. There’s something about this combo that’s obsessive-compulsive, as you keep slicing off the cheese, bit by bit, thinking, THIS is my last bite…till you finally decide, there’s not much left anyway, let’s just finish it off now! (The best way to overcome temptation is to give in to it) – Oscar Wilde might have been referring to the cheese and rusk combo here!
(Gora version: cucumber and cheese sandwiches don’t quite make the cut for me, unfortunately)
4. Nutella and Rusk
So now we move up to the new generation. A chocolate spread over rusk is probably not the healthiest of options, but then, who’s talking healthy here? All things in moderation, check, but Nutella seems to defy that rule. I have, admittedly tried to get my hands on a healthier Hazelnut-Chocolate spread in Switzerland. This one’s for the kids, but some grown-ups (ahem, who’s watching?) might fall for it too. After all, chocolate is chocolate and paired with rusk, it might just be the short, sweet, love affair of a lifetime!
(Gora version? Can’t think of one actually. This one’s a fusion of east meets west anyway, so I’ll put it down as a universal favourite!)
5. Chai and Rusk
Do I hear someone saying, keep it simple silly? But of course, that’s it! The original chai-rusk combination is perhaps the best, unadulterated pleasures of desi-life that I miss the most! The rusks available in Switzerland, infact, all of Europe, are NOT sweet. Brown rusks, Flaxseed rusks, White rusks, we have an unending variety but I have yet to come across the Kamal bakery type meethay rusk that tastes truly AMAZING when dunked in my chai!
(There is no gora version for this match made in heaven)
I’m on the lookout for the perfect desi rusk recipe and once I master the flavours, I plan to share it here. *For all you readers who miss their chai and rusk time abroad, if you have a tried and tested desi rusk recipe of your own, please feel free to share it with us, we will raise a mug full of chai to you – and dunk that rusk right in, just the way it’s always meant to be – tea time at its best!
Please don’t go for the Dawn or Bake Parlour version. It is like buying pre-sliced bread loaves from the supermarket in Europe, rather than the early morning freshly- baked loaves, off the shelves in bakeries. Hope that explains it, the less said, the better on that front.