Not counting Pepsi, the standard drink order for almost any Thai dish is Cha Manau, or Iced lime tea. It consists of a sweet, strongly brewed tea dust, flavored with a generous squirt of fresh lime juice, always served over copious amounts of crushed ice. There is good reason why this simple drink is what you want next to a chilli infested bowl of fried rice or green curry.
Not only is it the perfect antidote against the sauna induced tropics, the sweet of the drink offsets the heat of the chilli in the food, making it a favorite consort for even the most Royal of Thai cuisine.
It takes less than 20 minutes to make. Start to thirst-quenching finish. The reason for it being ready so quickly (as opposed to sitting in a fridge to cool for hours) will become apparent as you read through the recipe.
MINT INFUSED ICED LIME TEA
1 pinch baking soda
2 cups boiling water
6 tea bags
3/4 cup white sugar
the juice of a lemon / lime, pips removed, about 3-4 tablespoons – (optional)
lots of mint – lets call it a handful (optional)
6 cups chilled water
- Sprinkle a pinch of baking soda into a pot. Pour in boiling water, and add tea bags. Cover, and allow to steep for 15 minutes.
- Remove tea bags, and discard; stir in sugar until dissolved.
- Add the lime or lemon juice and mint and leave for a further minute or two to infuse
- Pour the entire contents, as is, over the pitcher with ice.
- Add the 6 cups of chilled water, stir and serve over ice.
Now first off, I know you are wondering about the baking soda. How odd ! However, baking soda cuts the bitterness of the strong tea when it brews. It is of course optional, but in my opinion it is the secret which makes this recipe stand out.
The pitcher filled with ice tea will be immediately ready for drinking. I remember the first time I witnessed this seemingly counter-scientific procedure, I was on what seemed an endless bus-ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. I gulped with surprise. “What ?!?” I thought, as the lady poured the boiling tea onto a small hill of ice, “..are you completely coo-coo?” Smiling brightly, she handed the Cha Manau to me and I half expected it to still be scorching hot. I carefully took a tiny sip, proceded to gulp down the rest, and immediately ordered another. There is nothing in the tropics that quenches a thirst like lime iced tea. Pepsi ? Id rather swallow a chilled, wet pillow.
You can keep this cooled in the fridge for as much as 5 days – though guaranteed it wont last as long, its simply that good. Even thinned out substantially, it makes a great accompaniment to any spicy dish. Keep the ice coming though – this drink needs plenty of it…