When we were children, one of my friends would hide mango in her closet beneath her clothes. This was her strategy to avoid sharing her favorite fruit (“dearer-than-my-life” in her words) with her brother. She was my neighbor. Every summer evening,we would walk to a neighboring fruit juice stall which served mango smoothie. It was in the heydays when we couldn’t care less about the calories that came from the full-fat milk, cream and sugar that went into the mango juice. The mango smoothie added just that wonderful touch of sweetness as we walked and talked, sharing our teenage hopes and dreams.
I have carried the karma of being attracted to people who LOVE mangoes wherever I go. When I went to college in Delhi, the breakfast that was served in the hostel was eminently uninspiring. Slices of hard toast, boiled egg, fruit and watered down tea. And one little cube of hardened butter that came directly from the freezer. So it was impossible to spread it on to the toast. So I came up with this brilliant innovation. I would slice the boiled egg (which was hot) in half and I would put the cube of hardened butter between the two egg-halves. The butter would soften very quickly due to the heat of the egg. This technique of melting butter spread like wildfire through the hostel and soon, everyone was melting butter in the ‘womb’ of an egg. If you can’t tell already, I was quite proud of this discovery. Sorry, I couldn’t resist the temptation of bragging with my butter story, but the point is that breakfast was quite inedible.
Until the day I met S. Hostel usually closed down during the summer, except for those who were working through a summer internship. Both of us had summer internships that year. Since there were so few people in the hostel, we started spending a lot of time together. She introduced me to this tiny juice stall a little distance away from our hostel that made the most delectable mango lassi.Lassi is traditionally a drink from the Indian province of Punjab that is made with yoghurt and milk. Mango lassi essentially involves whisking yoghurt and milk with the pulp of mango. I like mango lassi better than mango smoothie because the yoghurt adds a tartness to the drink – just an additional layer of flavor that I enjoy.
Everyday, we started skipping breakfast to take a five-rupee rickshaw ride to the Sharma’s lassi-stall for mango lassi.The stall owner whisked sweet Dussehri mangoes, creamy yoghurt and milk in a blender and pour out a smooth liquid into tall glasses. Then he would garnish it with pistachios, thinly sliced cherries and top it with a sprinkling of roasted coconut.The lassi stall was a small and rickety makeshift structure. Just as most street-food stalls in India are. There was only a raised platform with enough space for a blender and a few glasses. There was one wooden bench on the side, big enough to seat three people. We usually stood in front of the stall in the bright hot morning Delhi sun. After drinking the full glass of lassi, we threw away the straw and tilted the glass over our mouths to ensure that we drank the last few drops of lassi which the straw couldn’t reach. Whenever there were people seated in the wooden bench, they stared at us while we were mooching off the last few drops of lassi. I guess there is something stare-worthy (is that a word?) about two girls standing next to a busy highway with cars whizzing past, tilting their glasses to reach the last precious drops of mango lassi.
I don’t think I have gone as religiously to a temple to pray as I went to Sharma’s for lassi. The moment Sharmaji saw us, he would whip out two mangoes and get to work. Though he served a host of other fruit-based beverages, he knew we were his mang0-lassi-loyalists. After a few weeks, Sharma ji reduced the price of one glass of mango lassi from Rupees ten to Rupees eight. He smiled and said, “Students’ discount.” This was virtually the cherry to top our mango lassi escapades.
These stories happened more than a decade ago. But I can still taste Sharmaji’s mango lassi. I remembered my friends today as I set out to make my mango lassi . I am still in touch with both my mango-loving friends. But I do feel a twinge of sadness when I think that both now live in countries where mangoes are not readily available in the summer. One of them sent a distraught text I message to me saying that no mangoes would be available to her this summer because there was some export ban on mangoes.
I am in the midst of a bad back ache that prevents me from doing too much in the kitchen. But I am really trying to get this blog off to a start. If I procrastinate, “its not gonna happen babe-eh.” So I had to come up with the simplest recipe that I could make and write about. So I chose Mango lassi. It doesn’t surprise me that I am married to a man who loves mangoes. When we go grocery-shopping, he usually goes through the process like a zombie, but the moment we reach the mango section, he behaves like a man who has just downed a bottle of ‘Hamdard ka Cinkara’ and gets into an enthusiastic mango-buying spree.
I have recreated this lassi with low fat yoghurt, skimmed milk and honey. If the mango is very sweet, you can even omit the honey. You could make a vegan version of this beverage with light coconut milk and flax milk.
- 2 ripe mangoes, pitted, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup yoghurt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1 tsp chopped pistachios
Purée all ingredients in a blender. Garnish with pistachios. Chill before serving.
Some recipes call for adding ice cubes during blending. You can do this if you want, but I find that it makes the consistency a bit runny.
Epilogue: I went about cleaning up the kitchen after handing over the glass of lassi to L, who was busy on his laptop. As I walked past him, I saw something that made me stop and smile. He had the glass tilted above his mouth, waiting for the last drops of lassi.