I’ve never been to India; only to nearby Pakistan. I love the food of the region, though I don’t always understand the complexity of the spices. Even so, I keep on hand the ingredients for a hearty vegetable korma, which makes a delightful one-dish meal. When I want something more “professional,” I drive a few blocks to House of India for the ample lunch buffet offered by my friend Kumar.
One hot summer day, Kumar gratuitously brought me and my son an after dinner drink. I think it was a drink; it had some properties of a dessert. It was thick and yellowish and oh, so refreshing.
“What is this?” I asked unable to determine just what was in the concoction.
“It’s a Mango Lassi,” he replied.
Kumar explained that the drink is a favorite hot weather treat in India and is basically a mixture of yogurt and mango pulp. I later read, that some versions add water or ice cubes as a thinner. Sugar or honey is often included, depending on the sweetness of the mangoes.
Whichever you use, be sure the mangoes are ripe and not stringy, because you want the fruit sweet and squishy. Some recipes suggest using canned mango pulp or chunks. I sometimes use strawberries in place of the mangoes. But mangoes are my favorite, because of the beautiful color.
Other possible ingredients, that you’re unlikely to have on hand, include rose water and cardamom powder. Rose water is—as its name denotes— water in which rose petals have been soaked. The suggested spice, cardamon, has a complex, citrusy flavor and should be used sparingly. Both are optional ingredients. The cooling yogurt drink is especially satisfying on a hot day topped off with a sprig of mint.
The recipe below is from The Guardian newspaper. Since the British hung out in Indian for a couple hundred years, it’s likely to be authentic. The writer concludes by saying that a lassi is the most refreshing drink on earth—second only to a cold beer. I plan to spend the summer testing this assertion.
If you want to watch a real Indian mama make a mango lassi in her blender, take a look at Manjula in this video.
Mango Lassi (a.k.a. Mango Smoothie)
- 1 Alphonso or Honey mango, very ripe or mango pulp (about 1 cup)
- 5 ice cubes
- 1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt, chilled
- Pinch of ground cardamon, or to taste (optional)
- Splash of milk or water (optional)
- 1/2 tsp. light brown or regular sugar (optional)
To peel the mango, cut away the fatter sides from the stone. Then cut cross-hatches in the flesh, turn inside out so the cubes stick out, and scope into a blender with a teaspoon. Cut the remaining fruit from the stone. Or buy frozen or canned fruit already cut up.
Add ice cubes and whiz until finely chopped. Spoon in yogurt and cardamon, if using, and whiz until smooth. If too thick, add a little milk or water. Taste and add sugar. Pour into glass and serve with straw and sprig of mint.