Yogurt, long recognized for its anti-bacterial properties, is a crucial part of Indian cuisine. It's thus no surprise that we Indians have found all kinds of ways to use it, including in condiments (raita), curries and drinks too, via the simple yet sublime lassi. Who doesn't love a good lassi? Consumed in both sweet and savory versions as well as in various fruit flavors (mango being the most popular), lassis are the perfect antecdote for both the tropical heat of India as well as the spiciness of Indian cuisine. Since the mangoes we purchased a week or so ago had finally ripened, I decided to make mango lassi as an after-dinner drink tonight. Not just any mango lassi mind you, but one infused with lemongrass...
Lemongrass, also known as cymbopogon, is native to the Philippines though there is also a version that originates in India. Many of us are familiar with lemongrass given its use in Thai and other Southeast Asian cuisines as well as in herbal teas. Less known in the Western world is lemongrass's many medicinal properties, including its power to fight colds and coughs. Some research conducted a few years ago in Israel even suggests that a molecule found in lemongrass may have the power to fight cancer. So go ahead, pick up some lemongrass (commonly available in Asian grocery stores) and infuse it in your teas regularly!
And by all means, try it in this version of mango lassi! I infused a few pieces of peeled, bruised lemongrass (peeling and bruising releases the oils) into a bit of simple sugar syrup, which is then combined with mango, yogurt and ice in a blender. Nothing could be simpler! The taste of the lemongrass in this lassi is very subtle...it doesn't detract from the luscious mango flavor, but yet adds a gentle, curious zing that will have your family or guests wondering what it is. Perfect as an apéritif or after-dinner drink (read...liquid dessert!) with an Indian or Thai meal.
MANGO LEMONGRASS LASSI
Makes 2 lassis
1 stalk lemongrass, peeled, chopped into large pieces and bruised
1/2 cup water
1-2 teaspoons sugar (to taste)
2 cups chopped fresh mango (1 large mango or 2 small mangoes)
3/4 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt, try low-fat yogurt for a lighter version)
2-3 ice cubes
1. Combine the lemongrass pieces, water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce to low heat and simmer until the sugar dissolves and a syrup forms.
2. Remove the lemongrass sugar syrup from heat and cool down to room temperature at least. If you are able to make the syrup ahead of time, you can keep it in the fridge to get a nice cold syrup (this is ideal).
3. Combine the syrup and all the other ingredients in a blender, liquefying until the ice is crushed. Serve immediately...yum!