An Indian kitchen, actually for that matter most kitchens in what we call the silk road is incomplete without natural yogurt. We use it for sauces, salads, plain and in the summer months we use it in salads and in a cooling yogurt drink that is called lassi. Along with the yogurt, I have tried to revive some of the summer classics this year, think Indian style grilling, Indian coolers and the Indian salads that we call a raita, which are also yogurt based. So, this series that we are coding with the tag, #IndianSummer will help you keep all of them in the same place.
It makes a lot of sense that natural yogurt is the work horse of the Indian summer kitchen, most self-respecting Indian cooks (myself included), makes their own natural yogurt and in summer months this gets done very easily with the mercury rising. This being said, there are plenty of good natural options available in the market. I have also worked with soy yogurt and it works as an acceptable substitute, if you are avoiding dairy for any reason.
Today, I will be talking about a lassi, or a chilled yogurt drink. Now, if you are thinking of mango lassi, you are in the neighborhood, but let me tell you that inherently a fruit based yogurt drink is an adaptation, not a natural or original character present in the Indian kitchen. The concept of pairing a fruit with a sour dairy product is rather counter-intuitive to the Indian creation. So, the traditional lassi is really a chilled yogurt smoothie, paired with a flavoring of your choice. They can be sweet or savory. A sweet lassi is usually seasoned with flavorings such as green cardamoms, saffrons with a moderate amount of sugar or honey.
A savory lassi is flavored with mint and bits of ginger, sometimes even freshly ground cumin. Now, here’s the deal, I have learned to enjoy fruit lassi, in summer it is a typical morning treat! However, I feel if I have to add fruit, I should stay seasonal and I tend to enjoy my lassis with either strawberries or as I have shared here with peaches. If you are looking for a variety of innovative flavorings, you might want to check out the lassi bar at the Little Spice Station, in Mount Kisco. And to savor my recipe for a fresh and light tasting strawberry lassi, you can check out this post.