North Indian Lassi: Flavorful and Refreshing Yogurt-Based Drink

by DerdriuMarriner

North Indian lassi, a beverage that is based upon a yogurt-like, fermented milk product, refreshes with many variations, such as salty or sweet.

Lassi (pronounced LAH-see) is a North Indian beverage that is created from dahi, a yogurt-like, fermented milk product. Dahi is translated as curd on the Indian subcontinent.

Mumbai-born, Punjabi-heritage Indian chef Garima Arora (born Nov. 9, 1986), who in November 2018 became the first female Indian to win a Michelin star, explains the difference between curd and yogurt. Curd is achieved by curdling milk with an edible acidic substance. A saved portion of already-made dahi may be used as a curd starter (known as jamun or khatta). Other edible acidic substances include green or red chilies, lemon juice or vinegar.

Yogurt, on the other hand, requires bacterial fermentation of milk. Yogurt's ferments, Lactobacillus delbruekii sp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, transform milk's lactose (naturally present milk sugar) into lactic acid.

Lassi calls for a blend of dahi with a liquid, such as milk, rosewater or water, or with ice cubes. The addition of salt or of sugar determines whether the beverage is typed as salty (namkeen; from namak, "salt") or as sweet. Or, lassi may be both salty and sweet via pinches of both salt and sugar.

Namkeen lassi may be prepared with black salt, white salt or both black and white salts. NDTV (New Delhi Television Ltd) food and health author Sarika Rana describes black salt (kaala namak) as an Indian volcanic rock salt with a pink-grey hue. Black salt presents a savory taste and exudes a sulphurous odor.

Lassi seller in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, North India
Lassi seller in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, North India

 

Sweet lassis may receive additional flavors from fruits.  For example, coconut lassi enchants with appearance, flavor and texture. Also, coconut mango lassi unites two of India's most iconic fruits. Mango lassis are particularly popular, with their distinctive mango coloring and flavor. Pomegranates finesse lassi's exoticism.

New Delhi-born cookbook author Suvir Saran points out the recentness of fruit lassis. He dates serving fruit lassis to the British Raj, the period of British rule on the subcontinent. The Government of India Act, passed Aug. 2, 1858, transferred rule of India from the East India Company to the Crown, personified by Victoria (May 24, 1819-Jan. 22, 1901), Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, as of June 20, 1837, and Empress of India, as of May 1, 1876.

During her travels across India, my sister enjoyed sampling different fruit lassis. Yet, lassi's original basicness, as a plain, salted or sweetened beverage, remains her favorite.

Suvir Saran favors mango lassi. His recipe calls for the creamy pulp of Alphonso mangoes from the environs of Arabian Sea port city Ratnagiri, southeastern Maharashtra state, western peninsular India. The Alphonso mango cultivar, which originated in India, is named after Afonso de Albuquerque (ca. 1453-Dec. 16, 1515), second Governor of Portuguese India, as of Nov. 4, 1509.

Culinary Institute of America-trained pastry chef and baker Zoë François's adaptation of Suvir Saran's mango lassi recipe for her sweet peach lassi reveals lassi's versatility. Arizona-born, Chennai, India-transplanted blogger Catherine Reddy identifies India's northern regions and a few southern hill stations as favorable for growing peach varieties.

Although outcompeted by mangoes, peaches still find fans on the subcontinent. Reddy notes interest in extending the peach growing season, which peaks from early April to late June, by grafting a late-ripening, wild peach, known as katcheru, onto other peach varieties. Katcheru ripens in October. Fruit scientist Chiranjit Parmar (born May 16 May 1939) explains that katcheru's less desirable, sour taste might benefit from grafting.

Spices are essential ingredients in lassi. Spices especially enhance the appearance of creamy-colored lassis, such as coconut. Favored ground spices include cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Saffron's beautiful coloring and exotic, floral- and honey-like flavor greatly enhance lassi's appeal. Ground cumin is my family's favorite addition to salted lassi.

Variations in lassi's ingredients exist. Yet, the essential purpose of lassi remains unchanged. Salty or sweet, fruity or not, lightly or muchly spiced, lassi always satisfies as a refreshing beverage.

 

Grating coconut in a lassi shop, Bhubaneswar, Odisha state, Eastern India
Grating coconut in a lassi shop, Bhubaneswar, Odisha state, Eastern India

Mango Lassi


Prep time 1 min  -  Total time 5 min
Ingredients for 4 servings
Mango Lassi serves 2 to 4, depending upon serving size.
Recipe  5.0/5 Stars (16 Votes)

Ingredients and Preparation

Milk and yogurt proportions may be adjusted according to desired thickness.

 

1 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt

1/2 cup milk

   Note: Non-dairy milks, such as almond, cashew and soy, substitute well.

1 cup canned mango pulp; or 2 mangoes, diced

sweetener (honey or sugar) to taste

ground cardamom

ground cinnamon

 

Combine ingredients in a blender. Blend well.

Serve chilled, in small glass mugs or large glasses.

   Note: Sprinkling one-half to one teaspoon of cinnamon before serving makes a pretty garnish.

 

Serves 2 to 4, depending upon glass size.

 

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to talented photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet.

 

pomegranate lassis in sophisticated Mumbai, western coastal Maharashtra state, western peninsular India
pomegranate lassis in sophisticated Mumbai, western coastal Maharashtra state, western peninsular India

Sources Consulted

 

Arora, Garima. "Curd Or Yogurt: Which Is Healthier And Better For Weight Loss?" NDTV > Health. Updated Sept. 24, 2019.

Available @ https://www.ndtv.com/health/curd-or-yogurt-which-is-healthier-and-better-for-weight-loss-2106164

François, Zoë. "Sweet Peach Lassi." Zoë Bakes. July 31, 2008.

Available @ https://zoebakes.com/2008/07/31/sweet-peach-lassi/

Indian as Apple Pie @IndianAsApplePie. "Lassi: Slighty tart. Spiced. Thin. Yogurt drink. I remember asking my mother’s youngest sister - my massi - how they make it and why. She said it was a way to cool down in the Indian heat. And, proceeded to take yougurt and water in a tall steel glass and pour it into another and back again until it was super thin and frothy. Then, she sprinkled it with salt and black pepper. ‘That’s it’ she effectively said. We were in India in our kothi in Chandigarh - far from the sweet, syrupy mess we call lassi in the US. I wonder what she’d think of that version? We tend to make lassi at home. And, you can too! Plain, unsweetened Yogurt. Fresh mango. Frozen Mango. green cardamom pods. A touch of honey. Blend till smooth and frothy. It’s my daughter’s favorite snack. If you have homemade yogurt even better. Feel free to sub non dairy yogurts as well like soy or coconut yogurt as I like to do for myself. On the measurements? I have a recipe in my book Indian for everyone. Otherwise I just kind of wing it starting w. 2 cups yogurt." Facebook. June 13, 2019.

Available @ https://www.facebook.com/IndianAsApplePie/posts/10157400951072292

Indian As Apple Pie @IndianAsApplePie. "Watch me make a favorite in our house - mango lassi. More than just yogurt smoothies, lassis can be tart or sweet. They are very thin, spiced yogurt drinks used to cool you down especially in the prickly heat of Indian summers. This recipe for Mango Lassi uses plain, unsweetened yogurt (2 cups), 3/4 cup frozen mango, honey to taste, and a sprinkle of green cardamom pods. I usually make a huge batch for my 17 year-old, who drinks this like it's going out to style. These shakes were a great way to kick my kids' habit of Starbucks in the morning. Shakes and smoothies from coffee shops and the like can be loaded with unwanted sugar, food dyes, and other additives. If they are not (and read the labels and ask a lot of questions), they can be expensive. Keeping a Lassi on hand in the fridge has all but eliminated that expense for us but lets my kids enjoy something a little more interesting than just water or juice. For an exact recipe, turn to page 57 in my third book, 'Indian For Everyone'." Facebook. May 19, 2020.

Available @ https://www.facebook.com/IndianAsApplePie/videos/276831136699453/

Moyano, Carolina. "The Chemistry Behind the Fermentation of Yogurt." Food Unfolded. July 8, 2020.

Available @ https://www.foodunfolded.com/article/the-chemistry-behind-the-fermentation-of-yogurt

Parmar, Chiranjit. "Season-Defying Peach From Sirmaur." Himachal Tribune. Saturday, 20 February 2021.

Available @ https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/archive/himachaltribune/news-detail-849343

Pemmaraju, Gautam. "Friendly Ferments, Cool Cultures." 3 Quarks Daily. March 12, 2012.

Available @ https://3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2012/03/friendly-ferments-cool-cultures.html

Rana, Sarika. "Benefits Of Black Salt (Kaala Namak): From Curing Bloating To Reducing Muscle Cramps And More!" NDTV > Health. Updated Feb. 27, 2018.

Available @ https://food.ndtv.com/health/benefits-of-black-salt-kaala-namak-from-curing-bloating-to-reducing-muscle-cramps-and-more-1817805

Rana, Sarika. "How To Make Dahi Without Khatta or Starter, Also Known As Jamun?" NDTV > Food & Drinks. Jan. 10, 2018.

Available @ https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/how-to-make-dahi-without-khatta-or-starter-also-known-as-jamun-1798267

Reddy, Catharine. "All About Peach and Nectarine in India." The Earth of India: Indian Vegan Blog. Jan. 31, 2013.

Available @ http://theindianvegan.blogspot.com/2013/01/all-about-peach-and-nectarine-in-india.html

Sanghvi, Vir. "Rude Food: The Curious Case of the Indian Curd." Hindustan Times. Updated Oct. 6, 2012.

Available @ https://www.hindustantimes.com/brunch/rude-food-the-curious-case-of-the-indian-curd/story-kJD17hrU4aovjCrljXb9YN.html

Saran, Suvir; and Stephanie Lyness. Indian Home Cooking:  A Fresh Introduction to Indian Food. New York NY: Clarkson Potter, 2004.

Saran, Suvir. "Lassis." eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters > eG Forums > India: Cooking & Baking. May 6, 2002.

Available @ https://forums.egullet.org/topic/6387-lassis/

Singla, Anupy. Indian Home Cooking: The Home Cook's Guide to Traditional Favorites. Chicago IL: Surrey Books, 2014.

 

Indian for Everyone: The Home Cook's Guide to Traditional Favorites by Anupy Singla

Anupy Singla's third cookbook presents Indian cuisine favorites, such as lassi.
Indian for Everyone: The Home Cook's Guide to Traditional Favorites

Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran

Suvir Saran's first cookbook expertly highlights India's vast, varied cuisine, including refreshing lassi.
Indian Home Cooking: A Fresh Introduction to Indian Food, with More...

Swad Brand's Alphonso Mango Pulp

Distributed by Raja Foods, Swad Brand's Alphonso Mango Pulp originates in the North Indian state of Maharashtra's creamy Alphonso mangoes. This product is eligible for Amazon Smile donation.
Swad Ratna Alphonso Mango Pulp, Yellow

24 Mantra Brand's Organic Kesar Mango Pulp

This product is eligible for Amazon Smile donation.
24 Mantara 24 Mantra Organic Kesar Mango pulp - 850 ml,, 850g ()

Rani Brand's Kesar Mango Pulp

'Gir Kesar' mango (Mangifera indica), also called Kesar (Hindi: "saffron"), is grown in the foothills of the Girnar Mountains, in the Saurashtra region of western coastal India's Gujarat state. This product is eligible for Amazon Smile donation.
Rani Mango Pulp Puree (Makes Mango Lassi Shakes) Kesar Sweetened 30...
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning
Updated: 04/02/2021, DerdriuMarriner
 
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DerdriuMarriner on 02/22/2021

pateluday, I appreciate that you mention lassi's excellence as a probiotic.
I agree with you and my sister about plain lassi with sugar and rose water; although my sister found differently fruited lassis to be delicious, her favorite lassi remains the beverage's prototype.
And, yes, lassi presents itself perfectly in large glasses.

DerdriuMarriner on 02/22/2021

blackspanielgallery, You've pinpointed lassi's appeal: a refreshing beverage with widespread appeal that welcomes add-ons.

pateluday on 02/22/2021

Love Iced Lassi.. plain and simple with a dash of rose water and lots of sugar. Lassi is an excellent probiotic as well and in North India it is guzzled down large glassful!

blackspanielgallery on 02/20/2021

I like the way one can have different variations, as though the name and basis encompase a wide array of drinks, each with appeal to different audiances.

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