From Amritsar To Varanasi - The Lassi Trail Of North India
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Lassi, the creamy and frothy yoghurt-based beverage, is a simple yet legendary preparation that has captured the taste buds and hearts of many. It consists of thick and creamy yoghurt churned together with sugar, resulting in a delightful and refreshing drink. While Lassi is widely available across India, its sweet and luscious taste has also gained popularity among Indians and foreigners abroad.

Lassi has become integral to Indian cuisine and is particularly cherished as a hearty Punjabi breakfast. It is almost unimaginable to indulge in dishes like ‘Chole Bhature’ or ‘Chole Poori’ without a tall glass of soporific Lassi to accompany them. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Lassi is prominently featured in most Punjabi dhabas (roadside eateries) throughout the country.

For those seeking the best quality lassi, the state of Punjab is the place to be. Punjab, the birthplace of Lassi, boasts unparalleled expertise in its preparation. The lassis found in Punjab are known for their exceptional taste, texture, and richness. Savouring a glass of authentic Punjabi lassi is truly an experience to cherish.

To truly immerse yourself in the Punjabi culture of lassi drinking, a visit to the holy city of Amritsar is a must. Known as the cultural and culinary capital of Punjab, Amritsar offers a haven for food enthusiasts, with the iconic lassi shop called The Gian Di Lassi being a highlight. Located just a short walk from the Golden Temple, this renowned establishment is where you can experience the finest Punjabi lassi.

Gian Di Lassi takes pride in using high-quality, thick, and creamy yoghurt to prepare its signature lassi. Served in a chilled glass, the lassi is topped with a generous layer of malai (cream), creating a delightful texture and taste. This traditional version of lassi is a favourite among both locals and tourists.

For a unique twist, you can also indulge in ‘Pede wali Lassi’ at ‘Gian Di Lassi’. This variant includes the addition of sweet ‘Mawa Pedas’, resulting in one of the richest and most satisfying lassi experiences you can find worldwide. These large glasses of thick, creamy, and frothy lassi serve as a testament to the legendary appetite of Punjabis. However, for most individuals, a glass of Gian Di Lassi is filling enough to last an entire day. This culinary gem promises an unforgettable lassi experience, showcasing the richness and indulgence that defines Punjabi cuisine.

The culture of lassi extends beyond the cities of Punjab, reaching the capital region of Delhi as well. In Delhi, you can find renowned lassi destinations such as Giani Di Hatti in Fatehpuri, Chandni Chowk, and ‘Bille di Hatti’ in Kamla Nagar. Indulging in lassi in Delhi, accompanied by the famous Punjabi breakfast, is an unforgettable culinary experience. A refreshing glass of lassi helps cool down the palate and soothe the stomach after enjoying spicy dishes like Chole Bhature, Amritsari Kulche, Chole Poori, and Kachori.

The region of Braj, known as the birthplace of Lord Krishna, is also celebrated for its milk products, and lassi stalls can be found throughout the towns and villages in the area. A visit to the Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan offers the opportunity to try lassi paired with pedas at various stalls in the surrounding lanes. In Mathura, you can relish the luscious lassi alongside the spicy chaat for which the holy city is famous. Exploring the flavours of lassi in Braj will help you appreciate the importance of high-quality milk and curd in creating an excellent lassi.

The bustling streets of Varanasi are a haven for sweet delights, with lassi shops adorning the lively bylanes. Among them, the Blue Lassi Shop stands out as an iconic destination for food enthusiasts in search of an authentic Kulhad (Earthenware Cup) of lassi. This renowned establishment attracts tourists from far and wide, who navigate the narrow lanes seeking directions from locals to reach the famous blue lassi shop.

At the Blue Lassi Shop, a regular sweet lassi is served with a touch of rosewater and saffron, garnished with cashews and pistachios. However, it is the delightful fruit lassis that capture the preference of most visitors. Whether it's bananas, pineapple, mango, apple, coconut, papaya, or various other fruits and berries, the Blue Lassi Shop offers a wide selection to create a fruit lassi tailored to your liking. Enjoying a lassi at the Blue Lassi Shop is an experience in itself, with its vibrant and colourful-looking lassis and the opportunity to engage in conversations with travellers from around the world, creating an atmosphere full of positive vibes.

In addition to the Blue Lassi Shop, Pahalwaan Lassi and Baba Lassi are also popular lassi destinations in Varanasi. However, regardless of where you try lassi in Varanasi, you can rest assured of its quality and taste. Varanasi, with its rich culinary heritage, is renowned for its delectable sweet offerings, and lassi is no exception.

In Rajasthan’s hot and sultry weather, enjoying the chilled and delicious lassi is a gastronomical boon. In the Pink City of Jaipur, Lassiwala on MI Road is famous for its luscious lassis. Their creamy and refreshing lassis are a treat to enjoy. On the other hand, Laxmi Mishthan Bhandaar in Johri Bazaar is a renowned culinary destination known for its mouth-watering snacks and sweets. Alongside their delectable snacks and sweets, the lassis at Laxmi Mishthan Bhandaar have captivated the taste buds of locals and tourists for many decades. These delightful lassis perfectly complement the establishment's scrumptious offerings of snacks and sweets.

In Jodhpur, Shri Mishrilal Hotel at Sardar Market is known for serving some of the thickest lassis one can find. Enhanced with the delightful flavour of cardamom, this chilled lassi is a must-try, especially in the sweltering heat of Jodhpur. Similarly, cities like Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Kota, and Pushkar also offer traditional lassis, providing a much-needed respite for all food lovers.

Whether you're exploring the vibrant markets of Jaipur, immersing yourself in the cultural heritage of Jodhpur, or discovering the charm of other cities in Rajasthan, indulging in the traditional lassis is an essential part of the culinary experience. These lassis offer a refreshing and creamy delight that helps beat the heat and leaves you craving for more.

In many cities of North India, such as Kanpur, Lucknow, Haridwar, and Agra, one can indulge in the delightful taste of lassi. While sweet lassis are highly popular and sell like hotcakes, those who prefer a less sweet option can also try salty or masala lassi, which is flavoured with cumin, salt, and spices. Additionally, spiced buttermilk is another refreshing choice with its delicious flavour, serving as an effective digestif and providing relief in hot weather.

In cities like Jaipur, Vrindavan, Varanasi, Lucknow, Jaisalmer, and Indore, there is another unique lassi variety to explore—the Bhaang lassi. Authorized government shops in these cities' old and traditional markets offer bhang (edible cannabis) infused lassi for those seeking a distinctive experience.

These different variations of lassi reflect the diverse culinary traditions and preferences found across North India. Whether you have a sweet tooth, enjoy the tang of spices, or want to try something unique, lassi in its various forms is a delightful beverage that can be savoured in these vibrant cities.

Lassi is more than just a yoghurt-based beverage in India. It symbolises regional pride, a culinary delight that showcases the rich traditions and flavours of different cities. From the iconic Gian Di Lassi in Amritsar to the vibrant streets of Varanasi and the luscious offerings of Rajasthan, lassi has carved a special place in the hearts of locals and travellers alike.

Whether you're enjoying a tall glass of lassi alongside a hearty Punjabi breakfast, exploring the sweet lanes of Varanasi and sipping on fruit-infused lassis, or immersing yourself in the diverse flavours of Rajasthan, lassi never fails to entice and satisfy.

With each sip, you embark on a journey through these cities' vibrant streets, historical landmarks, and cultural heritage. It's an experience that not only tantalizes your taste buds but also connects you with the culinary traditions and warm hospitality India is known for.

So, as you traverse the colourful lanes of North India, don't miss the opportunity to indulge in the creamy, frothy, and flavourful world of lassi. Let it be a delicious companion on your gastronomic adventures, leaving you with cherished memories and a desire to return for more.

Sidharth Bhan Gupta, Founder of 361 Degrees Hospitality, is a Hospitality / Food and Beverage / Restaurant Consultant, Travelling across India on a Cultural and Culinary Exploration.