Another form of Lassi, the Ghol (referring to any liquidy concoction) is a watery curd beverage that has a much thinner consistency as compared to the creamy Lassi. The east Indian variant of Lassi, Ghol is predominantly consumed in West Bengal. Though there may be several variants of Ghol—the Rose Ghol, Chhaatu (sattu, or roasted gram flour) Ghol or even the iconic Ghondhoraaj Ghol—the drink is enjoyed thoroughly during scorching summer afternoons. The term Gondhoraaj literally translates to the 'king of essences'.
The Gondhoraaj Lebu is a special kind of lime esteemed for its refreshing aroma and subtle sourness. Quite akin to the Kaffir Lime (an ingredient widely used in Thai cuisine), Gondhoraaj Lebu may be considered a hybrid between the Mandarin Orange and the common lime. An ingredient native to Bengal, it is generously used to enhance flavours in dishes. The addition of the fragrant lime to the buttermilk gives the drink a zesty freshness that is difficult to best during summertime. Gondhoraaj Ghol is yet another example of how various regions in the Indian subcontinent have tweaked age-old, traditional recipes to make novel dishes that not only bring in a new perspective to the flavour profile associated with the original dish, but are also utterly delicious.
Every by-lane in Kolkata has a makeshift shack selling cool glasses of Gondhoraaj Ghol during the sweltering months of April, May and June. Spices like cumin powder and chaat masala are mixed to enliven the body of the otherwise watery beverage. Gondhoraaj Ghol has gained considerable traction among people not only because of its refreshing taste but also owing to its health benefits. A rich source of antioxidants, vitamin C, and probiotic bacteria, the beverage is a one-stop solution for a summer day.
Some preparations of the drink even recommend that a few leaves of the Gondhoraaj Lebu plant be infused into the drink. A simple experiment with the leaves can reveal why. Once the leaves, especially the couple attached to the Gondhoraaj fruit, bear a strong aroma of the fruit and emanate a flowery yet citrus smell when crushed. Hence, it’s a no-brainer that few mixologists would want to utilise the leaves too.
The drink is so distinctively Bengali that some have even pitted it next to the Rosogolla. One of the main reasons behind this is the unique nature of the Gondhoraaj Lebu. The lime variant is so popular, yet, it only grows in the east Indian soils of Bengal. After repeated attempts to cultivate the fruit outside the state failed, people finally agreed that the King of Essences had a special soft corner for Bengal.