Ellie-Jo goes back home to try baked yoghurt and learn about Bangladeshi independence
My Back Home Chai is a Bangladeshi café that's striving to bring the authentic flavours of home to Hyde for managers Abdul and Hiron. Ironically, I also had to go back home to try it.
Before I moved into the city back in February, I lived with my mum and dad in a little village just on the borders of Hyde and Glossop. The same village I recommended you venture to for a wet walk and some mussels in my best dish entry for December.
In Hyde, most people had to go to Morrisons for their breakfast, and there's lots of takeaways on the main road, but this is something different.
Hyde doesn't have a massive restaurant and bar scene at all, it has a market(ish), a load of hairdressers, and a little green shop called Zeenath that has one of literally everything you could ever need. I'm talking screws, lightbulbs, hoover components, the missing arm from a 1974 Sindy doll etc. Therefore, when the teachers from my weekly dance class told me about a little Bangladeshi chai cafe that had recently opened on Market Street, I was a little taken aback.
I saved the name in my phone notes and had a browse on Instagram when I got home. Sure enough, right next to the pharmacy, and a few minutes walk from the big Asda, is a little green cafe with a menu full of masala bean toasties, homemade matka kulfi ice cream, and parathas. I got in the car and trundled down the M67 the very next day.
Home sweet chai home
From the outside, My Back Home Chai has signage reminiscent of the recently-closed city centre spot, Home Sweet Home. Inside, there’s half a Tuk-tuk decorated with a string of decorative marigolds (in Bangladesh, garlands of these flowers adorn doorways and tables in honour of Diwali), shelves packed with Mr Naga’s Hot Pepper Pickle, and a handful of tables with green bistro-style chairs and empty tins of condensed milk used to store cutlery.
We take a seat right in-front of the counter, and we’re hypnotised by the huge vats of chai tea whirring before us. I want one in my kitchen at home. Abdul comes over to take our order, and talks us through all of the different chai variations on the menu. My dining pal wants ‘something sweet, and a little bit spicy’, and two little samples of Bangali chai and Karak chai are brought over in tin cups. I love a tin cup.
My mate goes for the Bangali chai, and I order a Naastha coffee with carnation milk.
Eager to know more about the origins of My Back Home Chai, we ask Abdul why there’s a sign above the door that says ‘Est 1971’. There’s no way it's been here for 51 years, my nan would know all about it if it had.
He explains that, “1971 was the year of the Bangladesh Liberation War, which resulted in the independence of Bangladesh. This is the only war in history that was fought for a language, and the people of East Bengal wanted Bengali, to be given the same status as Urdu and English.” Abdul also points to the extracts from the Bengali alphabet that are featured on the walls, the takeaway cups and the menus inside the cafe.
Carbs and post-fast cravings
We order the 1971 Brunch Board, complete with spicy beef sausages, veggie sausages, turkey bacon rashers, hash browns, fried egg, masala beans, grilled and buttered mushrooms, caramelised red onion, toast, paratha, masala skin on fries, and a side of that famous Mr Naga pickle.
For £18, you can share the board between two or three people, and it ticks all of the meaty, spicy, carby boxes you’d expect from a hearty Bangladeshi meal. Add a little dollop of the pickle onto each mouthful as you go, but use it sparingly, or you’ll need a second tin cup filled with ice-cold tap water to help you get through the ‘kick’. Or so I've heard.
Having grown up in Hyde, it's very rare that people think about going into town for a delicately spiced hot drink and some homemade gulab jamun (sweet fried dumplings). It's great to see a spot like this thriving.
Intrigued by this little café's place on the Hyde high street, I ask Abdul about the origins of My Back Home Chai: "Me and a friend put our heads together when we realised that after Ramadan, there was nowhere to go for a tea closeby once we'd ended our fast. We used to have to drive to Longsight and couldn't always take the kids. Then we heard about this place, which used to be a Polish supermarket, and we thought we could turn it into a chai place."
The clientele and the sweet stuff
I also ask Abdul about My Back Home Chai's customers, and its place within the community: "In Hyde, most people had to go to Morrisons for their breakfast, and there's lots of takeaways on the main road, but this is something different. There aren't that many places that you can just sit down and have a chat whilst experiencing some different foods and flavours. A lot of our customers are mums on the way back from the local school run who stop to have some tea and a catch-up, and we have a mad rush hour at around 9:30am every day, so you've just missed the chaos."
Turns out that driving 50mph down the motorway in this Winter's first frost was a good move, we beat 'the mum rush'.
After demolishing the brunch board and leaving only an egg and a few measly scraps of paratha, Abdul sneaks into the back and brings out two little bowls of Bangladeshi mishti doi with some gulab jamun for us to try. He explains that mishti doi is "a kind of fermented, sugary yoghurt that is baked and then chilled. Ours is made by a lady in her kitchen at home and she delivers it in bulk. It's really hard to get right, and in Bangladesh, people eat it after every meal as a kind of palette cleanser. It really reminds us of home."
This is it, this is heaven served up in a little metal bowl. Mishti doi has the same consistency as Greek yoghurt and the same sweet, creamy flavour as custard. When you go here, get it.
Chai'll be back
My Back Home Chai is the kind of cafe that little towns need more of. Abdul brings Hiron through from the kitchen to have a quick pic in-front of the obligatory neon sign, and me and my mate leave full, satisfied, and educated about all things Bangladeshi. We bring a mix of fresh Handesh donuts back to the office to have with a brew once the breakfast has settled.
Time to order a whirring chai urn for my kitchen counter.
My Back Home Chai, 37 Market St, Hyde SK14 2AD
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