Usually not a lassi fan, I was blown away by the exotic one I had in Rishikesh. With the right amount of sweetness, flavour of rose, floating rose petals, crushed dry fruits and a hint of spice, it left me wanting more and piqued my curiosity.
Popularly known to have originated in Punjab and Sindh, traditionally curd was churned into lassi with a mathani (wooden whisk), but today lassi is prepared with mechanical blenders, and believe it or not even in washing machines in Punjab! What started off with two simple variations—sweet (sugar and cream) and salted(cumin seeds, salt and black pepper)—now has local adaptations across the country.
The traditional ones, abundantly available in North India, are served in huge steel glasses and dollops of malai (cream) are dropped in, on demand. If you've tried this one, you'll know that sometimes you can't drink it, you just have to eat your lassi! Pondicherry in the South serves this version too, but the syrup added in Bangalore may be a little too sweet for some.
Enclosed in a clay pot called kullar or purva, the Benarasi lassi is much cherished. Here curd is mixed with rose water, mounted with a layer of malai, only to be topped with rabdi. Local vendors offer you a mix of kesar and elaichi too. And if a flicker member is to be believed, some visiting tourists have opened up a kullar lassi franchise in Korea too! Almost 400ml, kullar lassi can make for a complete meal.
Ever tried bhaang? At Rajasthan you can have it in your lassi. With the crunchy texture of thandai, and sugar that will only catalyse your high, not everyone can handle it. Interestingly, Dishoom Cafe in London, serves bhaang lassi with shredded mint, ginger, candied fennel sprinkles, grenadine and coconut milk. To make up for the missing bhaang goli, they give you rum.
Mumbaikers, don't panic. During holi you can get the Rajasthan style bhaang lassi and thoughout the year strawberry and mango lassis (also available in Goa and Delhi) as well as most other variations offered elsewhere.
So you can eat lassi, drink lassi and if you go to Diu Lassi in Diu, you can watch and learn how to juggle it too.
Image by Patrick Barry: www.flickr.com/photos/pbarry/5317416575/
With inputs from Rishab Shah, Ruby Arora, Craig Fonseca, Digamber Tawde, Jatin Shah, Utkarsh Mishra, Sreeparna Gosh and Patrick Barry