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Where to get 'karak chai' for Dh1 in Dubai

Sherouk Zakaria
Filed on January 25, 2017 | Last updated on January 25, 2017 at 06.11 am
It’s common to see Emiratis stop their cars outside  bsmall cafeterias as waiters serve them karak tea.
It's common to see Emiratis stop their cars outside bsmall cafeterias as waiters serve them karak tea.

(Photo by Shihab)

Shamsuddin Ahmed, Indian worker at Al Ismaily Cafeteria in Bur Dubai, said 70 per cent of his Emirati customers visit the place to get karak chai and parathas.

In some parts of the world, coffee is the biggest caffeine-seller. While the gahwa (Arabic coffee) is the ultimate expression of Emirati hospitality, there's no bigger hit among the young generation than the Indian masala tea, famously known as karak chai.

Karak is the star of low-key outings, quick breakfast or afternoon tea and even family/friends gatherings. A familiar scene in the UAE would involve big SUVs stopping by small cafeterias scattered across every corner of the country. Cars of Emirati families and friends would give a small honk for café workers who would come out with trays of disposable foam cups full of karak chai and hand over cups of tea to customers who drop Dh1 in the tray.

Shamsuddin Ahmed, Indian worker at Al Ismaily Cafeteria in Bur Dubai, said 70 per cent of his Emirati customers visit the place to get karak chai and parathas.

The cafeteria has been serving customers since 1995. "Karak has been the favourite drink of the Emirati people for generations now," said Ahmed.

Mohammed Ahmed from Istecanat Shay at Al Wasl Road said the rush starts around 10am where, beside Asians, Emirati men and women pass by to get their dose for breakfast before heading to work. The crowd gets back on at 6pm as people head out of their offices.

It could safely be said that the tea, which originated in India with British influence, is served in every Emirati household. It has been incorporated within the Emirati cuisine and can be found in high-end restaurants and coffee shops.

"Karak is essential. We can't live without it! If we didn't drink it at home, we feel like something is missing," said Fatima Al Shamsi, who noted that sometimes it's the magic drink that prompts all the creative ideas every morning.

The tea, which is a blend of black tea, milk, sugar and cardamom, is undoubtedly popular that it became the subject of a song widely shared among Emiratis called "the karak song"

When they tried the 'original' karak chai

While some visit Indian restaurants and others have Indian cooks, Emirati Hussain Sajwani travelled to Kerala and Munnar with two of his friends last summer.

The highlight of the trip was trying the original karak chai. "They do it with fresh milk, I loved it!" He added that the karak is a morning usual for him at work.

Sajwani visited the spices garden where he was introduced to different plants and fruits and their cure to different illnesses before shopping for some himself. "India is famous for its spices and herbal medicines where you can heal yourself by nature without the need to rely on chemical compounds and pricey treatment," he said.

While in India, Sajwani was introduced to different desserts such as kulfi (frozen dairy dessert) and rasmalai.

"We learned many food recipes from India, besides other cultural elements. In my house, we cook different lunch everyday, having biryani at least twice a week. Our salona recipes also came from India," said Sajwani, adding that Emirati celebrations are also sometimes Indian-themed.

He added that the Indian culture promotes similar values to that of UAE, which are family values, respecting the elderly and helping one another. "Even their police officers and those in high positions did not act with arrogance. They treat guests with kindness and respect," said Sajwani.

sherouk@khaleejtimes.com





 
 
 
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