City Food – Lassi, Chandni Chowk
The cool yoghurt drink.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Delhi has no copyright over the sweet-tart lassi. The cool, creamy, frothy yoghurt drink is delicious nourishment across India, especially during the summer. It is simple to make – whip in yoghurt with sugar and it is done. Add malai (clotted cream), it is heavy. Throw in some ice, it becomes light.
Highway eateries in Punjab are said to prepare great quantities of lassi by whisking yogurt in washing machines! For the most memorable lassi experience in Delhi, go to the tail end of 17th century Chandni Chowk bazaar in Old Delhi. Two lassi joints – Amritsari Lassiwalla (circa 1974) and Meghraj (since 1900) – stand across the red gateway of Fatehpuri Masjid.
Meghraj’s lassi comes without any trappings. A mix of yoghurt, sugar and nothing else, the lassi is so thick with malai that it is served with a spoon. The adjacent Amritsari lassi stall has an equally fulfilling option, but in a variety of flavours – mango, rose, banana, saffron, cumin, often garnished with chopped almonds.
Of course, such drinks are served in expensive south Delhi restaurants also, but the settings there are too sanitised. In Chandni Chowk, as you take the sip, the chilled milky relief of the lassi calms the tired nerves that inevitably come with an excursion to the Walled City. And the sights and sounds of Fatehpuri Masjid’s crowded T-junction – one lane going to Khari Baoli, the other to Lal Kuan and the third to Red Fort – is forever preserved along with the memory of the sweet tanginess of the lassi you are sipping. Later all that you will need to evoke Old Delhi in your mind’s eye will be the remembered taste of that yoghurt drink.
Sweet ‘n’ cool
Sense of the Place, Fatehpuri intersection
That’s Amritsari Lassiwalla
Meghraj’s simple lassi
More lassi please