Thadal/ Sardai: Traditional Summer Drink
Food has a deep impact on our lives whether we realize it or not. We keep on learning new cooking techniques and create new spectacular dishes to broaden our expertise yet food memories from childhood has a place of their own in your mind. Sometimes its the aroma of an ingredient that takes you back in time and you can easily write a little story about where you experienced it, what was the occasion, was that a pleasant experience, how it made you feel and why do you even remember it! That scene from “Ratatouille” when the food critic, Anton Ego, tastes Remy’s ratatouille. He puts a spoonful in his mouth and it takes him back to his childhood… to his comfort zone, to his home, to his mother, those carefree and innocent days. That animated visual is such a beautiful way to express how our taste buds and mind work together to create and relive a memory.
In the province of Sindh this drink is called Thadal and in Punjab it is Sardai. Origin and reason unknown to the author. Most parts of these provinces are quite hot during summer and there are many regional drinks which are popular for their unique taste and are known to beat the heat. I remember in Karachi a company used to commercially produce a bottled concentrate of Thadal. I still remember that label written in Sindhi language. Mom used to keep different flavors of such bottled drinks and Thadal used to be one them. Some were meant for guests only and some were daily back-from-school refreshments. By the time we reached high school and college we were too cool for such traditional stuff because sodas and fruit juices were becoming our new thing. That cabinet in the kitchen that had four or five varieties of local drinks of different colors and flavors shrunk to one or two. A while ago this name, Thadal, was mentioned during a conversation and I had my Anton Ego moment (just without tasting) and made me curious to do some research and bring that familiar taste back in my life.
While Badaam Ka Sharbat ( Almond Drink) , as the name suggests, is made from almonds, this drink, thadal or sardai, is like a blend of nuts, spices and condiments which you grind together and keep in an airtight container. Mix this with sugar and cold water, pass through a sieve and serve. You need eight ingredients for the blend. It has almonds and pistachio, both nuts unsalted, which provide the base for the drink in terms of color and flavor depth. Poppy seeds and melon seeds to enhance cooling factor, fennel seeds and green cardamom seeds to elevate aroma, to add a twist and earthy layer of taste, there are black pepper corns and cumin seeds which are an unusual addition to a sweet beverage but both spices compliment other ingredients really well while keeping their presence subtle. By the way I added two pinches of saffron to deepen the color but it is totally optional and will not effect the taste.
I grind two ingredients together at a time mainly because I have a small grinder. Secondly each duo has different level of hardness and it becomes easier this way. It may not all grind into powder and there might be some chunks and bits which are totally ok. Once all ingredients are ground, mix them together and store in an airtight container. Take a tablespoon of Thadal/Sardai powder and put in a blender with one and a half to two tablespoon of sugar. Sugar in Pakistan is sweeter than rest of the world and it has bigger granules too so you might need to adjust accordingly depending on preferred level of sweetness. I like drinks to be on less sweeter side so I can get a better taste of other ingredients so feel free to do your own thing. Pour in a glass of cold water and run the machine to blend well. Use a fine sieve to strain the drink. Discard the bits and serve immediately with more ice if you like.
There you go! A perfect summer drink!
A traditional summer drink with layers of flavors in every sip. Sure to tantalize your taste buds and make a special place in your favorite drink list.
- 1/2 cup un blanched almonds (badaam in Urdu)
- 1/2 cup unsalted pistachio (pista in Urdu)
- 1/4 cup poppy seeds (khaskhaash in Urdu)
- 1/4 cup melon seeds (char maghaz in Urdu)
- 1/2 tsp white cumin seeds (sufaid zeera in Urdu)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper corns (sabit kali mirch in Urdu)
- 1 tsp fennel seeds (sounf in Urdu)
- 1/3 tsp green cardamom, seeds only (hari ilaichi kay danay in Urdu)
- 2 pinches saffron, optional
- 2 tbsp sugar per glass of water to prepare the drink
Put almonds and pistachio in a clean spice or coffee grinder. Run the machine WITHOUT stopping till finely ground.
Empty the ground mixture to an airtight container.
Put poppy seeds and melon seeds and grind them together as fine as you can.
Add ground mixture of poppy seeds and melon seeds to almond and pistachio mix.
Grind pepper corn and cumin seeds and add to almond mixture.
Grind fennel seeds and green cardamom seeds and add to the almond mixture.
Mix everything well with a spoon. Add Saffron, if using. Thadal/Sardai powder is ready.
To make a glass of Thadal/Sardai, take one tablespoon of the powder and put in a blender with two tablespoons of sugar and a glass of cold water.
Blend for about 45 second.
Strain through a fine sieve. Discard bits of the powder.
Serve strained drink immediately with extra ice if preferred.
Do not stop the machine while grinding almonds and pistachio as they might release oil.
Remaining six ingredients can be blend together if it is convenient this way. You might need to check in between grinding as some bits would be left.
A few bits and chunks are totally fine. It will be strained and discarded anyway.
Poppy seeds aren't available in Arab countries so feel free to omit it.
Ingredient quantities are suggestive as it worked best for me. You can increase or decrease the quantities as you like if an ingredient isn't available.