My dad told me not to do it, but then I’ve never been a good listener. From the minute I landed in India, the street food was calling out to me so it was inevitable that I'd answer. We were wandering the streets of Jaipur trying to hunt down a pair of shoes for my friend and had just had a salesman try to sell us camel stomach shoes that he had stained “on site” (aka had dunked in motor oil) — but I digress.
We were hungry and stumbled on a sidewalk joint so packed with people it was becoming a traffic hazard. Peering past the diners, we saw ice-cold lassis and just-fried snacks being made to order and next thing I knew, we were elbowing our way to a table.
A few minutes of language-barrier charades and we ordered ek pakora, ek aloo kachori, and do lassi. The pakora was baseball-sized and crisply fried and the kachori (which I had never had before) was so light and airy I thought it might pop when I broke it open. The snacks were just spicy enough to make my cheeks flush, and were topped with a spot-on cilantro-mint chutney. But the lassis were what really made it.
The lassi arrived so cold and freshly made that they were frothy and the glasses thick with condensation. Just sweet enough, super tangy, and topped with a slew of toasted pistachios, I briefly contemplated moving in down the street just so I could have one everyday. And, over the course of my trip, I tried every lassi I came across from the classic mango lassi, the salted mint lassi, and the uber-decadent saffron lassi.
But, being as it’s spring, my latest has been in the form of a buttermilk and strawberry lassi. Some swear you must use whole milk yogurt to call it a lassi, but I like the tang and frothiness that comes from blended buttermilk. From there, you can riff as you please. Just don’t skimp on the cardamom and rosewater because those two ingredients take the recipe from ho-hum smoothie to a tall sip of India.
hulled and halved (about 3 cups), plus a few more for garnish
(can substitute orange flower water)
Taste the strawberries to see how sweet they are — if they’re very sweet use 2 tablespoons honey and if they aren’t that sweet use up to 4 tablespoons. Combine strawberries, buttermilk, coconut milk, honey, rose water, and cardamom in the carafe of a blender and process until smooth. Add ice and process until broken up and smooth. Taste and add more honey or other flavoring as desired. Pour into glasses and serve topped with pistachios and a few slices of strawberries.
Food styling and photography by Aida Mollenkamp