Celebrating Spring with Colors

If you've been reading my blog for a while then you probably know that Holi is not one of my favorite festivals. While I never cared much for celebrating with color and the liberal dousing with water as part of the Rangapanchami or Dhulivandan celebrations, I did enjoy the real Holi a great deal.

Apart from puran poli, masala milk or thandai is a milky treat that is always served on Holi.

I have never attempted making puran poli and when my friend from grad school asked me if I had a recipe for thandai, it occurred to me that I hadn't made that either. My excuse for not making puran poli is that it is daunting, especially the way my mother used to make it. Helping was always easier. As for thandai or masala milk? Well, we are all lactose intolerant. But that also meant that Medha has never had thandai and I felt the need to fix that.

Happy Holi!

I pointed my friend to the trusted Manjula while I figured out a way to make a dairy-free thandai. Some might call it a vegan version but let's stick with dairy-free for now.


  • 1.5 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tbsp whole black peppercorn
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 4 green cardamoms
  • a small pinch of saffron strands
  • 2 tbsp rose water (optional)
  • 1 tsp crushed pistachios (optional)

  1. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Boil until sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat and set aside to cool. This is a simple syrup.
  2. Grind all the whole spices into a fine powder and mix into the simple syrup.
  3. Once completely cool, strain the spiced syrup through a fine strainer. Discard the residue.
  4. Add unsweetened almond milk, rose water, if using, and saffron strands.
  5. Serve chilled or over ice. Garnish with crushed pistachios.

  • Taste for sweetness before serving. If required, add more almond milk.
  • If you use sweetened or flavored almond milk, don't make the simple syrup. Instead add the ground spices to about 1/2 cup of warm almond milk, allow the flavors to meld, strain and then mix with the rest of the almond milk.
  • This makes approximately 4 half cups of thandai. I served it in small shot glasses.
  • If you don't have access to almond milk, you could make your own.

This made for a wonderful change from the usual same-old same-old substitute milk. Medha was hesitant at first and wondered what the spices were. I rattled off the names of all spices except black pepper. If I had mentioned black pepper, her mind would have singled out that flavor and she would never drink thandai again. For now, it's mixed with the other flavors and she's willing to drink it. It's a tough life being my daughter. It's even tougher being her mother and trying to stay one step ahead.

In other news, my third article on Cooking Boulder is now online. Let me know if you try it.

If you celebrate Holi, I hope you had a wonderful, safe celebration with your family and friends. We celebrated this past Sunday with our friends at Balvihar. Here are some pictures from that day.

Just a smidge more color




Happy Holi!


Anjali Koli said...

Rang bi rangi aayushyacha anand ghya, DhuLivandana chya shubhecha!

Manisha, is it possible for you to write about Viren and support, here is the appeal on my blog http://annaparabrahma.blogspot.in/2012/03/help-viren-needs-treatment-for-leukemia.html

Rose from Magpies Recipes said...

Happy holi! What a joyous collection of pictures!

Nandini Vishwanath said...

Love the picture with the colours. I'm a sucker for such pictures :)

Never had Thandai. Now that Medha's had it, I should too! Maybe with some other stuff added in it :D

suvi said...

Happy holi. I don't much care for the dousing in colours bit, but I love thandai.

"It's even tougher being her mother and trying to stay one step ahead." I can so identify with that.

Nisha said...

Oh my, I don't know why Puranpoli seems so intimidating - it was to me too, until I made it one day & realized it's SO much easier than any stuffed paratha!!!
Give it a try :)

Bong Mom said...

Love, love , love the Holi at your BalVihar.

And ahem, I have never had a Thandai...please can someone fix it ?

Desisoccermom said...

Happy Holi to you too. Love your Balvihar celebrations. We have such a large community here that gathers at the Hindu temple, we don't bother to show up. There is no personal touch to it. Haven't had thandai in ages or puran poli for that matter. Let's do the puran poli soon.

Indian Food Rocks said...

Anjali, I'm so sorry about your friend. I will help spread the word.

Rose, thank you! It's always fun celebrating with our Balvihar friends! I hope you had a good one, too!

Nandu, make it! As for with 'other stuff,' I've never had it in any form. :-D

Aqua, parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life!

Nisha, ouch! Why the need for bold tags? The puran poli we make is not a stuffed paratha. It is a delicate piece of heaven, rolled out to perfection and then cooked on a tava just right, with no fat. It is folded over in a special way and then eaten with warm molten ghee poured over it. It can be dipped in warm milk, too.

BM, come on over. It doesn't take long to fix it but it might take longer for you to come over. And then who knows, you might never leave and that will be very good for me. Not to worry, I will stock up on mustard oil.

DSM, living in a small town has its advantages and disadvantages. So far, the pros outweigh the cons and sometimes the cons become the pros, you know?! And, yay, for puran poli!

anthony stemke said...

I enjoyed the pictures,happy Holi.

Anita said...

Happy Holi, Manisha. We didn't do much - just enjoyed the holiday on the couch. Did make some bhel; couldn't desist after seeing that photograph on FB.

GB said...

Not a huge fan of holi--I do like looking at pretty colors, but don't care much for the rest. Anyhoo, I spent holi in bed--down with the flu. boo. :(

The thandai looks real tempting...the almond milk base reminds me of my my grandma's almond sherbet--totally different recipe, but for some reason, now I can't stop thinking about it.

anna in spain said...

Thanks for linking back to your blog entry with the Whole Moong Dal recipe. I grew up in the Midwest in the 60s and was told that "mung beans" were green soy. Now that I can't eat soy in any form, I am glad to know that moong dal is *not* a soybean. Maybe we need a PSA about dals--or maybe you already have one?

www.mahaslovelyhome.com said...

happy hoil n nice pics too.......

Unknown said...

What a refreshing looking Thandai. Happy holi. Beautiful pics.

Pelicano said...

I'd actually like this version of thandai better than the traditional, as I'm not fond of milk. I'm thinking rice-almond milk combo might be nice too- nice post!

Soma said...

Holi is one of my favorite festivals.. the color, the smear, the getting soaked and staying with the paint for days.. all of it!

I need to say a BIG Thank you Thank you for this version of Thandai. I do not know why I never thought of it when I really like Almond Milk. None of us are lactose intolerant here, but all of us HATE milk.. plain milk. There are very few ways we actually consume the white milk.
And the only reason I never really liked Thandai is the thought of the milk in there. I have to try this now.

Mona said...

Beautiful snaps!


Namitha said...

hehe, we parents always have to outsmart our super smart kids, huh :D I have always wanted to try thandai and I'm bookmarking this dairy-free version :-)and I love puran poli, we call it boli in Malayalam !

Mandira said...

so much fun Manisha. I have to try almond milk with Ameya. The thandai looks fab.

notyet100 said...

Beautiful pics,..:)

notyet100 said...

Will try the vegan version sometime:)

Jayanthy Kumaran said...

beautiful capture..
new to your space..lovely space you have..
nice presentation
happy following you..:)
do stop by mine sometime
Tasty Appetite

cybergabi said...

This looks like so much fun! I would love to participate. And the drink? You knew I would love it, right? And now that I know a stand on the market which has unsalted unroasted pistachios (a real rarity in this neck of the woods), I'm totally going to try this.