CHAIIWALLA: INDIAN TEA & STREET FOOD COMES TO LE1
Since the launch of the first tea and desi street food shop in 2015, the Chaiiwala brand has expanded rapidly to not just its four outlets in Leicester but also Derby, Peterborough and London, totalling a whopping 12 tea shops in almost three years! Living in Leicester, I’m slightly ashamed to say I’ve never visited Chaiiwala but always heard raving reviews about it so it was high time Dr C and I went along to sample the street food and chai and what better place to experience it than their new shop on Granby Street, LE1.
In Hindi a chaiwala is a person who prepares, sells and serves Tea on the small roadside streets on the Indian subcontinent. ‘Chai’ is the Indian word for Tea and ‘Walla’ is the person performing the task.
Traditionally, Indian tea is made by boiling on a low flame, almost equal quantities of water and milk together along with loose black tea, dried Indian tea masala and sugar. The India masala tea mix is a concoction of black pepper, cinnamon, cardamoms, ginger and cloves. The exact quantities differ from recipe to recipe and also from family to family (usually passed down through the generations) and I suspect the Chaiiwala exact recipe remains a close guarded secret! Chaiiwala.
The Indian masala Tea is also given the name Karak Chai, which is what Chaiiwala calls theirs and they also prepare the coffee counterpoint, Karak Coffee. Working on the same principle the Karak coffee contains coffee, milk, cardamoms and sugar, again boiled on a low flame to infuse the flavours.
Chaiiwala hot drinks are served in their own branded papercups, which if you opt to hire them for your corporate or party needs, you can have your personal branding printed alongside their’s. As much as I love the idea of the paper cups, I felt it would be more authentic to have, maybe the traditional silver cups or even the clay cups made in Calcutta. Plus these are way more slurp friendly! Oh yeah, it’s all about slurping the masala chai don’t you know!
The menu at Chaiiwalas is pretty simple, spicy and tasty keeping it totally synonymous with traditional Indian street food. The portions are also reflective of the size you would be served as food grabbed on the streets.
On our first visit, Dr C and I opted for the Desi Breakfast, which actually comes as a pretty good value deal. It consists a masala omelette, paratha (Indian shallow fried flat bread), with masala beans or daal and is accompanied by a Karak Chai. It all arrives pretty swiftly served on a traditional silver thali (silver rimmed plate), which has the signature Chaiiwala old world newspaper lining it. The food is hearty, has just the right amount of spice and is an Indian breakfast of champions!
If it’s more of a lunch or snack you’re looking for then Chaiiwalas has these in abundance. For example, light bites come in the form of the Bombay sandwich, Samosa cone, Chilli Paneer, Mogo (cassava) chips, masala chips, and an array of roti’s. Additionally there is a small dessert menu but not having a real sweet tooth, I gave them a miss, plus the rotis and desserts make quite a regular appurtenance on our dining tables being of Indian descent myself!
I will make one simple recommendation and that is that I am a big fan of the Bombay Sandwich. I first ate it in Mumbai and have fallen in love with it ever since. My face lit up with sheer excitement when I saw it on the Chaiiwala menu. Just to clarify, the Bombay Sandwich contains a spicy masala potato mashed mix and with cheese in a grilled sandwich accompanied by a coriander and mint chutney. You just have to try it and I’m pretty certain I’ll be popping into Chaiwallas for my regular fix of the spicy potato sarni!
Also did you notice that monochrome Taj Mahal paper covered wall? Really, I couldn’t have made it more obvious that I slightly love it, goes so well with the grey/monotone colours of the small but perfectly formed tea shop and the cute steel wood topped bistro furniture! Fantastic for a take-away but if you can’t wait to eat then at least you have the option to grab a pew and devour! Chaiiwala’s tag line is; a sip of the east’ and that it most certainly is. I mean if you live in Leicester there’s really no excuse, you have the choice of four outlets! My verdict, if you hadn’t guessed is it’s a snack time winner!
Tell me, will you be a Chaiiwala regular? Let me know in the comments below
Chaiiwala Granby Street
78 Granby Street
Tel 0116 2966725