Cooling Summer Lassi

A few years ago I discovered lassi, a cooling beverage made with traditional Indian curd, and flavored with herbs and spices.  From everything I had read, Indian curd is tart and thick, not the same as American yogurt.  Not able to find Indian curd (dahi), I started to research, and discovered many Indians here in the States will use buttermilk in place of yogurt to make lassi.  One day, while shopping in a local Indian grocery, I happened to find myself chatting with the owner, also the owner of the neighboring Indian restaurant.  I asked her about curd and making lassi, and she told me that her restaurant did indeed use buttermilk to make their lassi.

Buttermilk is a staple in my kitchen, and I make my own by the half-gallon.  If you’d like to try your hand at making buttermilk, I’ve got you covered here.

Originating in Punjab, India, lassi is very popular in the sweltering heat of Indian summers.  Sold by street food vendors all over India and Pakistan, lassi is traditionally served in handle less clay cups, and sometimes topped with a dollop of clotted cream.  Lassi are either sweet or salty, and made by blending curd with herbs, spices, and sometimes fruit.

When making lassi, there is a lot of room for personal preference.  I like sweet lassi to be really cold, thick and creamy, so I add a big handful of ice cubes to mine when I blend it.  I like the salty versions thinned down, so I add both ice and water when I blend them.  The recipes I give can be tinkered with to suit your personal taste.

Mango Lassi
3/4 c buttermilk
3/4 c Alphonso mango pulp
1/4 to 1/2 t ground cardamom
1 t rose water (optional)
3 T sugar
Ice cubes or water (optional)

A note on mango: Your typical grocery store mango won’t give the desired results for this drink. They tend to be fibrous and not very rich tasting. If you don’t have access to fresh Alphonso mangos, then canned pulp is recommended. You can usually find it in a well stocked international or Indian grocery.

Combine ingredients and blend well, either in a blender or with a stick blender.  Garnish with a sprinkle of cardamom, and if you’d like to splurge, a pinch of saffron.

 

 

 

 

Traditional Punjabi Sweet Lassi
1 1/2 c buttermilk
1/4 c water and/or ice
3 T sugar (or more to taste)
1 t rose water
1/2 t cardamom

Combine all ingredients and blend well.

 

Salty Lassi
1 1/2 c buttermilk
1/4 c water or ice cubes
1/4 t salt
1/4 to 1/2 t ground cumin
6-12 mint leaves

Combine ingredients and blend well.

 

 

Adapted from an article I wrote appearing in the May-June 2018 issue of The Essential Herbal Magazine.

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