I’m taking cues from the Indian subcontinent on how to beat this Texas heat. If anyone knows hot weather, it is the people of the Punjab valley where my parents grew up. Temperatures reach upwards of 115 degrees at times, and most Punjabis have none of the air conditioning and modern amenities that Houstonians can avail. What to do? Cool off with “lassi,” a yogurt drink.
Yogurt drinks aren’t exclusive to the Punjab region. Lassi variations have spread throughout South Asia, but you can also find yogurt in other regions, such as the popular “ayran” drink in Turkey and the smoothie a la Jamba Juice. What makes lassi special is that it offers a salty and sweet combination that feels especially good in the heat. It’s why lemonade is also a popular summer drink; something about that blend of tartness, salt and sugar helps us feel refreshed. It’s also watered down so that it isn’t too thick or filling. I appreciate that in the summer, when my appetite decreases.
Lassis are served salty and sweet, or, as I prefer them, mixed. I think the salt offers a note of depth in an otherwise sweet drink, that little extra that makes this not just another smoothie. Traditionally, lassis are served plain (yogurt, water, salt or sugar), possibly with a touch of cardamom or fresh mint. Mango lassis are also popular, given the fruit’s wide availability and popularity in the Indian summer.
But why stop there? I decided to experiment with other fruits, and settled on this raspberry cardamom lassi. I also went with buttermilk instead of yogurt just to finish what I had on hand. If you’re looking for a sweet, thick and milky experience, this isn’t it. But if you want a refreshing, bright drink that surprises your palate, try it out:
In a blender, combine 1 cup of buttermilk, 1 cup of water, 10 ice cubs, 3/4 cup of raspberries (frozen work just fine), 3 tbsp. brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt and the seeds from 6 cardamom pods. Garnish with raspberries and serve.