Lassi is a yoghurt-based drink that is popular throughout India. It can be sweet, salty or spicy in taste; as heavy as a meal, or as light as a drinkable mousse. Often, it is the refreshing acidity of the yoghurt that is sought, but lassi has many variants.
The sweet version is often only flavoured with sugar, as a mild counterpart to the sour yoghurt. Alternatively, you can an extra flavour, such as rose water, saffron or pureed fruit. There is a salty variant that resembles the non-alcoholic, national Turkish drink, ayran, and this is often flavoured with mint and cumin.
As well as authentic Indian flavours, you can also find quite a few Western innovations. For example, lassi can be made with roasted beetroot, super-foods like goji berry or avocado, or even with salted caramel for a truly decadent and refreshing mouthful.
If you want a lassi that never misses the mark, then try the sweet, fruity mango lassi. The flesh of very ripe, sweet mango is ground with ice cubes into a smooth, cold puree. This puree is then mixed with yoghurt, finely ground cardamom and, should the lassi turn out too thick, possibly some extra milk or water. The taste can then be perfected with a little sugar or a squeeze of lime juice.
The milk fat of the yoghurt in lassi lessens the spiciness of chilli peppers. This makes a lassi the perfect drink for a sharp curry, like vindaloo or chicken Madras. The side dish, raita (based on yoghurt, with other flavourings, such as cucumber) also has the same cooling effect.
How to drink
Lassi can be used as an appetiser as you wait for your main course or is delicious enough to be enjoyed as a dessert, but the drink really comes into its own next to an extra spicy Indian dish.
In Punjab, the lassi is served in a large glass with a spoonful of makhan (white butter) on it. In fact, the Punjabi lassi is nearly a meal in itself!