25 | Oct | 13

Richard Johnson

Lads And Lassis

The waterways of Kerala are choked with lotus blossom. The one time I visited, the humidity was 100%, and the heavy vaults of palm and bamboo wove above the boat like a tapestry. Having navigated the treacherous black waters, I arrived in Trichur. I made straight for a young man on a street corner, who was idly pouring lassi from one jug to another. I was so thirsty that (if he’d had dimples) I would have married him.

Lassi is its Indian name. It’s called ayran by the Turks, abdug by the Iranians, and laban by the Jordanians. It’s a simple mix of yoghurt and ice, flavoured with anything from mango to salt. I grabbed the jugs of the smiling lassiwalla, and held up ten fingers close to his face. I then stood and drank ten lassis, before disappearing to find the food stalls of the bazaar.

As this informative article points out, there’s a world of Indian street food out there to get to grips with. But wash it all down with sweet lassi. The spices in curry are soluble in fat – not in water. So, after a really spicy Madras, water does no good at all. But a full-fat lassi cools the mouth wonderfully. As does a raita, and a buttery naan. Ordering lassi also marks you out as a true curry aficionado.

The British curry began with the crews who worked the P&O ferries from India. When they set up their own restaurants in Britain, they moved from the P&O menu to the ‘one-curry sauce’ made from imported paste. The intricacies of Indian cooking – and the full array of non-spicy dishes – didn’t really feature. In a lot of our Indian restaurants, they still don’t. But with street food sellers like Manjit (above) Horn Ok Please and Angus Denoon, that’s all starting to change.