Lassi is the most common beverage in Northern India. Seasoned yogurt blended with water (or ice) forms the basic lassi. While sweetened lassi is by far more popular, salted lassi has its own set of fans.
The earliest mentions of Lassi have been found in the ancient Indian texts dating as far back as 1000 BC. These texts include Ayurveda (Literally the Science of Life) which refers to the benefits of the blended yogurt beverage. This could well be the world’s first smoothie!!
Today, lassi is made with almost every flavor under the sun… but traditionally, lassi was made either sweet or salty. Sweet lassi could have an added garnish / flavor of rose petals and salted lassi is typically flavored with cumin, mint leaves and fresh ginger.
In the Northern parts of India, the summer months can be oppressively warm with temperatures easily crossing a 110. The natural way to keep cool is to drink copious quantities of chilled lassi. The yogurt is naturally cooling and full of good bacteria that aid digestion.
Ayurveda suggests a wide variety of foods that help balance intestinal or gut flora by introducing beneficial bacteria into the body. Fermented vegetables, fermented cheeses and yogurt are all considered probiotic. Probiotics are foods that introduce good bacteria into the digestive system. Apparently, yogurt in its thick form isn’t as effective as the blended lassi.
The benefits of lassi get doubled when combined with other highly nutritional foods like mango. Mango, in India, is referred to the king of fruits. This moniker isn’t just because of delicious taste, but because of its intense medicinal and healing properties. Incredibly rich in antioxidants and fiber, Mangoes are a high source of beta-carotene and vitamin C as well. This nutrient rich fruit in combination with the cooling yoghurt forms the almost irresistible mango lassi.
Lassi is certainly serious business across Northern India. The basic necessities to make lassi are an earthen ware pot, a stick, some yogurt, water and salt or sugar. The yogurt is popped into the pot with the water and the seasoning and churned with the stick. A few minutes of churning, and you have a rich creamy and deliciously cooling beverage ready.
In the 1980’s, there was a huge demand for semi-automatic top load washing machines in Punjab, the northern region of India that is also called the land of the 5 rivers. It wasn’t because the people of Punjab suddenly discovered an intense liking to their washing, but in reality, these washing machines were being used to churn lassi! The washing machines were modified slightly by the ingenuous locals to suit the purpose. The main drum was filled with yogurt and water and with the flick of a switch; large quantities of lassi would be ready in a jiffy!