Nothing beats desi drinks for a cooling down in the summer heat across India.
Summer in India can be really hot with temperatures across the country soaring. The only way to beat the heat is to keep ourselves hydrated. A variety of fruits, sherbets, desi smoothies and flavoured country drinks are available to keep cool. They are cheap and cheerful and worth a million bucks in their ability to be great thirst quenchers; and they’re healthy too.
The humble Indian lime makes for a quick and easy to make summertime drink. Squeeze Indian lime into a glass and add sugar or salt to taste. To make a nimbu shikanji or the desi lemonade of north India, add a dash of black salt for a bite in your drink. If you like a little extra fuss to serve your guests add a few mint leaves and grate ginger in your nimbu paani.
If there’s a crown to be given away on an Indian summer, it belongs to the king of fruits. India boasts of a variety of mangoes, from pulpy to sweet and sour. And they make for great drinks.
The aam panna is a favourite drink in north India made of raw mango pulp with a black pepper and cumin added for a sour flavouring. The green drink with a dressing of bhoondi for crunch is a killer.
Most regions of India are partial to lassi, dahi or its probiotic desi avatars. The mango lassi is a winning combo of your favourite mango pulp, chilled milk, sugar and flavourings of your choice like saffron and elaichi with a crumble of almonds and pistas.
This drink originated in the Middle East where sherbet or a flavouring powder is added to cool drinks. It comes in various avatars in India. The frozen sorbet of America has its desi counterpart in the chuski but the common Indian sherbet is a combo of fruit, flavourings with chilled milk or water. The common one across is the Sugandhi or Nannari Sherbet made with sarasapilla root powder, sugar syrup and lime that makes for an excellent coolant. Bel sherbet is a coolant made from the pulp of the bel fruit (woodapple in English, vilvam in Tamil, maredupandu in Telugu). Strain the pulp of the fruit and add jaggery or sugar syrup as a sweetener and serve chilled. Old timers also swear by the efficacy of the sattu sherbet. The sherbet’s flavouring comes from roasted and ground gram flour, with sugar or jaggery as sweetener added with cold milk and water.
Fruit milk shakes
This is a drink that can double as a meal if the prospect of polishing a three-course Indian meal in the summer makes you swelter. Health conscious Indian mummies approve of their kids slurping milk shakes than carbonated drinks. The milk shake is versatile given the many Indian summer fruits available for new combos. Blending milk, sugar with the fruit of your choice was never so easy. Chikoo, mango, strawberry, banana… the list is long.
Got you there, didn’t we? Before nutritional terms became easy on our tongues, the desi yoghurt, dahi, moar, buttermilk, lassi was a byword in the heat of the Indian summer. The forms of curds, set or a drink are the same thought they vary in their spices and names according to regions. In the south you have majjige, moar, light salted buttermilk seasoned with curry leaves and ginger and chillies; in the north is the plain or salted chaach or sweetened creamy lassi.
All mix fruit juice
Besides learning desi English, the sheer variety of fruit juices from water melons, musk melons, pomegranate, sweet lime, chikoo or sapota in south, pineapple, the list of fruit juices available at street corners and high end juice bars is long. And yes, coconut water. A real thirst quencher if there was ever one.