Why You Should Be Adding A Teabag To Your Curry

In addition to tea being used as a morning or afternoon pick-me-up in countries worldwide, tea's bitter and herbal flavors have become commonplace in several corners of the culinary sphere. Earl Grey macarons infused with black tea and citrusy bergamot and matcha cheesecake with a grassy flavor that offsets its sweetness has delighted lovers of baked goods. Green tea has even been used historically in East Asian desserts, like the spongy rice flour cakes known as mochi.

But tea isn't just for desserts. Harnessing the unique flavors of different teas for savory cooking can lend an extra bit of oomph to your dinner. You could cook your grains in tea instead of stock, incorporate smoky tea into a barbecue rub, or perk up a stir fry with some crispy fried tea leaves. 

But one dish you shouldn't miss adding tea to is any thick, hearty Indian curry. One traditional Indian recipe called Punjabi Chole, a type of chickpea curry with a rich brown color and a fragrant smell, explicitly calls for a teabag. 

A teabag brings in extra moisture, adds flavor, and provides more color

Punjabi Chole uses a spice mix called chole masala, which includes spices like coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns, cloves, chili, and bay leaves. The recipe often includes amla, or dried Indian gooseberry, to give it its dark color and a bit of sourness, but many people use black tea instead. It creates a slight change in taste, although it may become overpowered by the other strong flavors in the dish.

Why use it, then? It has to do with the challenge of rehydrating dried chickpeas. In an interview with The Guardian, Dipna Anand, the chef at Dipna at Somerset House in London, explains, "Chickpeas tend to dry out when you cook them and a teabag also helps to retain moisture. Just be careful to take it out before serving!"

Simply adding a teabag while boiling your chickpeas will achieve the desired texture and color. One teabag will do, but if you only have loose-leaf black tea, you can boil one teaspoon of tea in a cup of water, strain out the tea leaves, and use the brewed tea to cook your chickpeas.

This teabag trick can work wonders on any sauces or soups other than Punjabi Chole. Try your hand at making coconut curry chicken with a tea-infused gravy or a green tea chicken curry to make use of these subtle bags of goodness that can help make a dish taste just as good as it looks.