16 May 2006

The milkshake that changed my life

It was like it was always meant to be. When we first moved to Chicago, one of the first things I did was read the Lonely Planet Chicago guide book Carl bought for Mike's birthday last year.

A few minor errors aside, everyday this guide proves to be a great way to get to know Chicago, as it not just reports on the tourist things, but also delves into the real Chicago from the local perspective. I mean, I speak with all the authority of someone who just moved here and hasn't read any other guidebooks on the city, which goes to show that you can take anything I say with utmost respect. Ha ha.

One of the places the book highlighted is Irazu, billed as Chicago's only Costa Rican restaurant. (This may not be true anymore as rumour has it, there is now another one somewhere.) The book describes Irazu as something of a hole-in-the-wall eatery with cheap burritos and something called an oatmeal shake.

With no idea what an oatmeal milkshake tastes like, I had this place on my mind for months. I like oatmeal cookies, so I could only imagine that the shake would taste like a cookie! And boy, do I like cookies... I also like food in liquid form, so this could only be a good thing.

Unfortunately, Irazu was a little out of our way when we were in Streeterville. After moving to our second apartment, it turned out Irazu is five minutes away from us. Or ten minutes if you walk really slow.

Still, we didn't visit this place right away. No, sir. Whenever we were not in the mood for cooking, we always veered towards hot dogs or pizza or even McDonald's first. Also, it seemed the few times we did try going, they were closed! (Apparently, Irazu is known for turning away customers all the time.)

To make this already long story just slightly shorter, we finally made it, and it was downright cool. The oatmeal milkshake in particular was fantastic and I became obsessed... It really tastes just like an oatmeal cookie would in liquid form!

The obsession drove me to do searches on the Internet to figure out: 1) how to make an oatmeal shake, and 2) if this really was a classic Costa Rican recipe and something all Costa Ricans do, in which case a visit to Costa Rica may be in order. I can't say I've come across much information yet, but it sounds like this may be something you can find in a few Latin and South American nations. The only hint I got about making one though was through this blog Big Sweet Tooth, who also wrote about the wonders of Irazu's oatmeal shake, and in passing suggested there has to be some horchata in it (sweetened spice-infused rice water).

I never would have thought of the horchata element on my own. So with this one lead, plenty of bravado, and the sweet memories lingering on my tongue, I attempted to make my own shake!

The magic ingredient!

A few rough attempts later, I think I've got the hang of it. In the picture above, the square tetrapak container is one horchata which tastes good on its own, but wasn't that helpful in the shake. The bottled horchata is a concentrated mixture, and while I found it to be really gross by itself even with a lot of water added, I think it's the magic ingredient that makes the shake, uhm, shake.

I'm no good at measuring, but if you're curious, this is approximately what I did.

Ingredients and Tools:
- Quick oats
- Milk (may be substituted with water)
- Horchata, concentrated (if not already sweetened, add sugar to taste)
- Vanilla (optional)
- Ice
- Blender

Basically, half of your drink should be ice, three fifths milk/water and horchata, and two fifths oatmeal, with a splash of vanilla. I find it helps make the drink smoother if you preheat the otameal in the microwave before blending.

For a 500mL serving, you probably want to use around 6-8 tablespoons of quick oats, 200-25 mL milk (or water), 2-4 tablespoons of concentrated horchata, 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla, and about 6-8 large ice cubes. Depending on your horchata, you may require some extra cinnamon and/or sugar.

Technically, I think the shake is supposed to be dairy-free, in which case you could probably just use regular horchata and not the concentrated kind, but I'm used to my shakes milky so I like to have the milk present. I also experiment with nut milks for pleasant results. Enjoy!

Magic in a blender!


Faust Facts said...

I have been searching high and low for a recipe that can recreate my incredible experience indulging in an oatmeal milkshake at Irazu. I went there almost 3 years ago, and when I was pregnant, I made my husband go out to get me one. Unfortunately he never found the restaurant, and I was left with a craving that hasn't disappeared in months. I guess it's all about the horchata. Thanks for your tip!!!

T-Shirt Azusa said...

No problem :) I don't know if the portions are right (or if they do anything special to the oatmeal, like toast with cinnamon and grind), but it's definitely horchata that makes it extra yummy!!

Faust Facts said...

I just tried your recipe and it was fantastic! Your measurements were dead on, and I thought the raw oatmeal worked out great. I'll be sharing this recipe, but don't worry...t-shirt azusa gets all of the credit!!!

Azusa Nakamura said...

Yay. Glad it worked! :D

T-Shirt Azusa said...

Interesting update if you want to make an oatmeal milkshake at home. I was in Cermak Produce on North, and there was a powdered product!

See - http://tshirtazusa.blogspot.com/2007/04/weekend-other-updates.html

Cowgirl Up said...

I just got back from Costa Rica wher I studied spanish for 3 months. I was very fortunate to have a host mom (Tica madre)that made me oatmeal shakes a couple times a week for breakfast. It too changed my life... I love them!

I have never heard of Horchata. Other than that, your recipe is very similar. Of course, without any exact measurements she would let the oatmeal soak in the water for hours (sometimes even overnight) before making the blended treat. Generally it would contain all water or half water/ half lactose-free milk with a bit of cinnamon (I imagine flavor of the Horchata replacement). A couple of times she even blended a very mature (but not black) banana into the mixture. All of that plus some Tica (short for Costa Rican female) love and it always started my day off right!

T-Shirt Azusa said...

Cool... Thanks Cowgirl Up! That's really interesting to know.

Yes, horchata (rice drink) often has a cinnamon taste to it, which I assumed was the magic ingredient... I never understood if the oatmeal part was right. It doesn't seem like using it straight from the container was authentic. At the Costa Rican restaurant, there was an option to have it with milk or without (assuming cow's milk), so not sure how that differs from what you had.

I'm going to have to try your Tica madre's version. Sounds pretty good! :)

Cherry Candee said...

"if this really was a classic Costa Rican recipe and something all Costa Ricans do, in which case a visit to Costa Rica may be in order"

Definitely not. This is not something all ticos do, I've lived in CR my whole life and never even heard of it!

I actually came across your page looking for an oatmeal shake recipe, LOL!

T-Shirt Azusa said...

Ha ha. Interesting comment Cherry Candee. I've been a little out of touch with someone from CR, so never got around to asking them...

Would still love to visit Costa Rica some time though ;)

Sarah said...

I had an oatmeal shake at Tistal. I think that's what it was called. Anyway it was so magically delicious! I'm Mexican so I recognized the horchata right away but it tasted so different at the same time. Thanks for posting the recipe! Can't wait to try it! Leaving for the store right now!

T-Shirt Azusa said...

Cool... Hope the recipe works for you Sarah.

I saw instant oatmeal products in a Mexican grocery store once. Wondering if that helps with making the milkshake?

coco said...

Hi T-Shirt Azusa! I just saw your comment on my post. I hope you don't mind I linked you, but I think you may really be onto something. I'm going to the mexican market tomorrow to get some Horchata. But Cowgirl Up's comment about using water (or half milk) with cinnamon, oatmeal and banana may be a good idea to try too. Soaking it over night may make a huge difference because I found a recipe to microwave the oatmeal in water for a couple minutes and the consistency of the shake was real gooey and gross. Thanks for all the input! I know that irazu gives you a choice of either soy or regular milk. hmm.... I'll let you know how it goes. :)I'll be in costa rica aug 1st, so maybe i'll find a secret there.

T-Shirt Azusa said...

Hi Coco! No, didn't mind the link at all... It's been really fun finding out who else is obsessed with learning the secret of Irazu's yummy milkshake ;)

I didn't realise Irazu offered soy milk. They always asked "water or milk" but that was a few years ago. And they always noted that milk was better.

Wow, a trip to Costa Rica sounds pretty awesome!

Anonymous said...

I am also a fan of the oatmeal shake, my mother in law makes them all the time she is from Honduras. Her recipe: Sorry she goes by sight so no measurements: water soaked oats, browning banna, ground cinnamon, sugar and vanilla to taste with ice. Love it i drink one almost every day.

T-Shirt Azusa said...

That sounds like a great recipe! I'm going to have to try an oatmeal face-off of all the suggestions :)

Brooke said...

I also became to obsessed with the oatmeal shake at Irazu. Since I knew she would never wknowingly tell the recipe, I resorted to asking Irazu girl (you know who she is if you frequent) a single different question about the shake every time I went so that I could gather all the facts for my own reproduction. I also love horchata, but there is absolutely none in Irazu's shake. You are just tasting the combo of cinnamon and dry oatmeal or rice. Irazu only uses cinnamon, milk, and I am assuming sugar and ice. positive. The trick is proportions, a good blender, and soaking the oatmeal or cooking it if you want, now CREATE!

T-Shirt Azusa said...

Brooke, that is pretty cool... Yes, another attempt at recreating the milkshake is in order!

Anonymous said...

Someone at Irazu actually told me that it's just sugar, water, oatmeal, cinnamon, and ice! But I was searching for a recipe to find out the proportions and came across this!

T-Shirt Azusa said...

Thanks anonymous! That's interesting that Irazu gave you those details... I don't know if they still do this, but they asked if you wanted the shakes with milk or without. Maybe milk substitutes water?

Also, sorry to everyone who has been contributing recipe ideas. I've been meaning to try out all the different variations and post a follow-up! Stay tuned.