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October 28, 2012

light the carnival | mango lassi at home

I have never experienced culture shock like the culture shock I experienced when I landed in New Delhi. Tired after 17 hours of air travel through the night, emotionally exhausted after farewelling family and friends and life I knew in New Zealand, we arrived at a strangely empty airport, dazed but awake in the only way you can be after long distance flying and a completely unfamiliar time zone. My passport was stamped by a customs man with a large double chin who didn't say a single word and we were also silent as we drove through Delhi, taking it all in with wide eyes.

In Delhi, and in fact, all of India, there are a distinct lack of road rules. In lieu of rules, everyone uses their horn excessively. Roads are shared with pedestrian traffic, motorcycles, camels, donkeys, rickshaws and bicycles. It seems chaotic and shambolic - and it is - but somehow it also seems to work.

One of the things we didn't frequently eat in India was lassi - a thick yoghurt drink. Lassi can come sweet, salted, or with fruit flavours - mango is perhaps the most common. We tried to avoid eating too much dairy that had not been sufficiently heated, in order to prevent food poisoning, but one of the places where we just couldn't resist was "the blue lassi shop" in Varanasi. It is tucked away in the old part of the city and to find it you have to walk up from the ghats that line the Ganges, through streets just wide enough for pedestrians, past houses, hidden temples, and small markets and restaurants,  until you come to a blue hole-in-the-wall shop. One man will be chopping and smushing fruit and mixing it with curd, the other will be taking orders and delivering the lassi.

And the lassi - oh my, it was delicious. Made with fresh mango pulp and fresh curd, served in a small clay pot which was discarded after use, a wooden spoon and a newspaper napkin it was completely unpretentious, cost 150 rupees (NZ$4) and was easily the best lassi I've had in my life. I knew that no other lassi would live up to this standard, however, I decided to attempt to make a lassi at home. Part yoghurt drink, part fruit smoothie, not too sweet but gently spiced, I think this makes a pretty good substitute.

maitland st mango lassi

1 tin (400-500g) sliced mango in light syrup (or mango pulp if you can find it) or fresh mango if you're lucky!
400g plain unsweetened yoghurt

pinch sea salt
500mL whole milk (preferably raw)
8 cardamom pods
8-10 saffron threads (if you have them)
natural sugar such as rapadura or muscovado, or honey

Give the cardamom pods a bash with a mortar and pestle (or flatten them with the side of a knife) and remove the seeds. Put the pods in the compost and grind the seeds into as close to a powder as you can get in the mortar and pestle. They should smell very fragrant. Add the saffron threads and smush a little more. Add a little of the milk and let sit for five minutes to infuse, then stir again. The milk should take on a lot of the saffron colour.

Drain the mangos, and smush the mango slices in a bowl. If you are lucky enough to have a kitchen blender (we don't), you could blitz them in the blender instead. Strain the saffron infused milk into the mango pulp, add the rest of the milk, the sea salt and the yoghurt. Blend, or whisk. I used an electric hand-held beater for ours - if you do this, be warned, you will need a clean tea towel to cover the blender as it will splash everywhere! 

Strain through the sieve that still contains the saffron - I found that the tinned mango was quite fibrous so I strained it again to keep the stringy fibres separate. Sweeten with honey/rapadura - it won't need very much, and drink cold. This made about 750mL of lassi - so we had one cup as a taste tester before dinner and then a full 600mL milk bottle for breakfasts this week. I'm thinking mango lassi over whole oats soaked overnight will make a pretty delicious breakfast! 


title from grizzly bear - all we ask


  1. Replies
    1. thanks Anne, me too! I only wish that it weren't so hard to find fresh mango ..

  2. Um, YUM!
    I know what you mean about culture shocks- my first overseas trip was last year to China. It was crazy and amazing! I want to go to India in the next year or so :)

    Loving your blog! Your writing is lovely to read
    Rach x

    1. Thank you so much! I can imagine that China would be crazy and amazing in similar ways that India was at first - i think its quite healthy to experience a good (cultural) shock to the system every now and then. Our trip was cut short by illness unfortunately - but on the good side that makes me want to return all the more!

  3. oh thank you for those beautiful pictures and a little trip down memory lane. we also landed in Delhi 7 years ago and yes what a shock, the noise, the vibrancy, the colours, the smells, so much to take in. your blog is effortlessly gorgeous, i'm hooked!

    1. Hello to you too, and thank you for stopping by and for your lovely compliment! I'd love to read of your experiences - India is such a special place isn't it. x

  4. Yum! Love your reminiscing of beautiful India and I am definitely going to try making your lassi soon. xx

  5. Oh wow, this looks delicious! I'm going to look for some mangoes to try and make some....

  6. oh goodness i love mango lassi! i shall have to try this x