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Back when I was a poor college student studying in Barcelona, my budget was rather limited and I tended to reserve my euros for cerveza and vino (sorry, Mom). But on those rare days when I was feeling flush with cash, I sought out the many culinary delicacies the northern Spanish city has to offer: pristine seafood at the breathtaking central market La Boqueria; rustic, serve-yourself tapas; and, on hot afternoons, horchata de chufa.
Horchata de chufa is a sweet, silky nut milk made from small, wrinkled tiger nuts. (They're actually tubers that grow beneath a leafy plant.) In most of the world, the tiger nut plant is considered a weed, but in some parts of Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa the nuts are eaten raw as a snack or transformed into beverages. In Spain, that means soaking the nuts, grinding them with water, sweetening the drink, and serving it ice-cold. In Mexico, they do the same thing with rice, yielding a lighter, more floral-tasting drink.
Tiger nut horchata is rich, creamy, and delicious, akin to a thicker, sweeter almond milk. The method is pretty similar to any other homemade nut milk: after a 24-hour soak (tiger nuts, because they're less common than, say, almonds, are more likely to be older and need more soaking time to fully rehydrate), the tiger nuts are ground in a blender and then sweetened with quite a bit of sugar and chilled before serving with a sprinkle of cinnamon. In Spain, horchata is served in ice cream parlors, and, like ice cream, it manages to be incredibly refreshing in spite of its sugary creaminess.
Tiger nuts aren't super easy to find—you'll have to track them down in an African grocery store or order them online—but the effort is worth it when it results in this unusual and supremely satisfying drink.
About the author: Lauren Rothman once interned at Serious Eats and recently graduated from journalism school. Try the original recipes on her blog, For the Love of Food, and check out her (many) food photos on Instagram.