The world's first smoothie, lassi is a yogurt-based drink originally comes from the Punjab regions of Pakistan and India. It makes sense that regions with asshole burning food pair their dishes with a cooling, yogurt-based drink to mellow out the fire. While that mango variety is most popular in the U.S., real-deal lassi are usually saltier and spicier. Here's the shakedown on the drink that brings all the boys to the yard.
Lassi Come Home
Before refrigeration, lassi was mixed and stored in clay pots and served as a cooling refreshment during scorching summer days. What may look like a milkshake to the unrefined American eye will shock your palette with its sour, tangy, spicy bite and smooth but thick texture. Lassies are drunk to cool down hot summer days, aid in digestion, as part of religious ceremonies, and just because they're fucking delicious.
Whipping up a sweet lassi can be as easy as throwing together ice, yogurt and sugar or as complicated as steeping various spices in milk to achieve a spicy balance of flavors, letting it cool, then blending it into the perfect concoction. Sweetened with sugar, honey, or natural fruit, it's not uncommon to find turmeric and ginger in the sweet mix. Mango lassies are made from sweet mango pulp blended into the yogurt and spice mixture. A little dash of salt always finds its way in as it brings out the sweetness of the other ingredients.
Salted lassies are traditionally flavored with mint and toasted cumin and thought to have cooling and restorative properties, perhaps replacing the salt you sweat during a hot day. The savory flavor of this variety might be odd at first since your brain is trained to think milkshakes are all sweet. But give yourself a minute to develop some appreciation for it and you'll be craving that salty tang like a local.
OTP Tip: Do the Doogh! In many Middle Eastern countries, doogh is a carbonated milky drink that's been consumed since the ancient times, when Persia was actually a country and not just a suburb of Beverly Hills.
Bhang is hash; bhang lassi is the liquid equivalent of a special brownie and has floated around in the drinks and things of India for centuries. Bhang is government authorized because it is part of long-standing traditional celebrations and deeply imbedded in the culture. Get high on milk during the spring Holi Festival when everything is covered in neon-colored flour and everyone downs a few bhang-in' lassi in celebration.
Go to India at the peak of summer and sip on a few different varieties to get a good idea of what's out there. Let the tang hit you in the salivary glands and don't forget to wipe off that lassi 'stache.