Unbelievably, it’s been over six months since the last instalment in TATTGOC’s ongoing series demystifying the world of curry. Judging by both our most recent outing (to the Dubai Grill, more on which next Thursday) and our lassi-drenched visit to The Village last year, I think it’s safe to say that January is officially the month that the TATTGOC bretheren most closely associate with the cooling, soothing, comforting joys of lassi. Maybe it’s because we’re trying to cut back on the booze after the festivities, maybe it’s to combat the overspending of Christmas, but it’s now become tradition to forego the furious onslaught of multiple pints of lager in favour of the traditional and authentic joys of an ice-cold lassi. But what exactly is it?
Lassi is popular across the whole of India and Pakistan and is a cold drink made of yoghurt combined with water or milk which is then sweetened or spiced to taste. The resulting beverage is a perfect accompaniment to any curry, but is especially revered for its ability to cool the mouth after even the most fiery of dishes. In the UK, most Indian restaurants offer sweet or salted lassi but the mango variety – which simply adds mango pulp to the yoghurt/water mix – can be found here too. It seems that the beauty of the lassi in India is the wide variety of possible flavours and mixes that can be created. Spiced lassi, for example, usually contains ground roasted cumin seeds as standard but after that the exact spice mix will vary depending on the seller. While mango lassi is the most common flavoured variety found in the UK all sorts of other fruit can be used to liven up the drink.
Different regions have their own specialities too – the particularly rich saffron lassi is a favourite in Jodhpur and Sindh. Rajasthan seems to be the epicentre of lassi experimentation however, specialising in not only saffron lassi but also makkhaniya lassi and the notorious bhang lassi. The Tramp thinks that there is surely a market for makkhaniya lassi in Scotland – it’s lassi with lumps of butter blended through it, and has been described by one traveller as tasting almost like cheesecake but not quite.
Bhang lassi is made by grinding the leaves and buds of the marijuana plant to a thick green paste which is then blended into the lassi – with typically cosmic consequences. Basically, they’re just massive space yoghurts. Check out this footage of famed chef and legendary badass Anthony Bourdain sampling a bhang lassi from a government-approved vendor in Rajasthan. Note that he is offered varying strengths of the concoction – “normal strong, super-duper sexy strong and full-power, 24 hour, no toilet, no shower.” Oaft!
So there we have it. Whether you just fancy a break from the booze or are trying to calm the fire of a particularly brutal vindaloo, why not try a lassi? TATTGOC recommends it. Just remember the words of wisdom from our fellow Scots over at the We Love The Lassi’s: “a Scottish lassie is not a yoghurt based drink.” (I’d also recommend popping over to read their blog, charting the progress of three Scots as they travel from Nepal down to the south coast of India in a tuk-tuk for charity.)