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Chai Time

Written by , published December 22, 2008

As part of my birthday celebration this past weekend, some girlfriends and I signed up for chef Chaya Rao's afternoon Chai Tea class at the Whole Foods Culinary Institute. The price tag ($20) and short time investment (1.5 hours) fit beautifully with our pre-holiday budget. Chaya is from Bangalore, India, the country's third most populous city; it's the capital of the Indian state of Karnataka and known as both "the Garden City of India" for its abundance of green spaces and "the Silicon Valley of India" for its abundance of high-tech industries. It's also a heavily vegetarian region.

I enjoyed learning about the culinary anthropology of India as much as I enjoyed watching Chaya prepare tea and a lovely Indian snack called batada vadas, which are potatoes mixed with cilantro, ginger, turmeric, and serranos, which are formed into small balls then fried in a chickpea-flour batter. Crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, these savory little globes of deliciousness didn't taste oily at all. The lemongrass-and-basil tea we enjoyed first tasted of jasmine and herbs, and the traditional chai—prepared with Darjeeling black tea, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and milk—proved a perfect way to help ring in another year.

To learn more about the Whole Foods Culinary Center, call 512/542-2340; www.wholecateringaustin.com.

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