KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 28 – There are days when the blues creep up on you and won’t go away. Times like that I find the company of good friends and comforting Indian food always help. After all, there’s nothing like spicy cuisine and even spicier conversation to chase the blues away.
My favourite treat at the end of a meal at an Indian restaurant isn’t an ultra-sweet gulab jamun (deep-fried curdled milk balls in syrup) or a cup of creamy kulfi (frozen spiced milk dessert) though. Instead, I long for a cool tumbler of freshly and lovingly (or so one could hope) made lassi.
Most of my friends, when they hanker for a blended drink, consider a protein shake (if they are gym rats) or a barely-caffeinated frappuccino (if they are café junkies) or a fruit smoothie (if they are on yet another diet) to be quite adequate. Oh but these beverages pale in comparison with the Original Blended Drink – the humble lassi.
Hailing originally from India and Pakistan, a lassi is traditionally a blend of yoghurt, water and spices. By default, a lassi is savoury thanks to the salt added and also spices such as ground roasted cumin or even turmeric (a popular remedy for tummy upsets).
These days, most of us expect a lassi to be sweet in flavour, spiked with sugar, rosewater, honey or fruit. Mango lassi comes to mind; it’s possibly the most widespread version, perhaps due to the seasonal influx of Indian and Pakistani mangoes into our supermarkets. When you have so many ripe mangoes, you figure what to do with the surplus, sure enough.
Other renditions involve serving the lassi with milk, clotted cream, lemon, saffron and even rich lumps of butter! (The last version is called makkaniya lassi as “makkhan” is the Hindi word for butter.)
There’s no reason why we shouldn’t make lassi at home since the preparation is simple enough. All you need is a decent blender to mix all the ingredients thoroughly till the beverage is creamy but not too frothy. There are so many different types of lassi you can make, depending on what ingredients you use.
I love blueberries, the superfruit du jour thanks to their high antioxidant content. Even in the old days, the Native Americans knew how healthful these berries could be and blended them with honey and cornmeal to make a highly nutritious pudding. Researchers have discovered that polyphenol compounds in blueberries known as anthocyanins can reduce symptoms of depression too, so that’s another plus point if you want to ward off the blues.
To make it more Asian (since blueberries have to be imported from the West, after all), I add coconut milk (which helps cut the dairy flavour of the yoghurt a little) and cinnamon (which helps to balance the high-fat content of the yoghurt and coconut milk). More importantly, these ingredients taste great together! What better way to beat the blues than to add a little yumminess to your day?
Blueberry cinnamon coconut lassi
For the coconut milk, either canned or fresh coconut milk will do. If it’s to be fresh though, I prefer buying unsweetened shredded coconut and making the coconut milk at home. All you need is to mix twice the amount of water to the shredded coconut (blending is not necessary though you may do that to get it extra creamy), pour once through a sieve to catch most of the coconut solids, then a couple more times through a muslin cloth or cheesecloth.
Fresh coconut milk doesn’t really keep well so once you’ve made it, use it immediately in the lassi recipe below. The addition of salt is typical of North Indian and Punjabi-style lassi but feel free to omit it if you prefer your lassi to be sweeter.
100 g fresh blueberries
250 ml organic yoghurt
125 ml coconut milk
1 tablespoon organic honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
2 cinnamon sticks (for garnishing)
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. Serve immediately in clear glasses and garnish each glass with a cinnamon stick.
Yield: Two glasses to brighten up your day!
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