It can get really hot in India. We don’t even have the luxury of heat waves, we have heat tsunamis. Last year, temperatures soared into the high 40s (that’s a 110+ in Farenheit), and although global warming might have meddled in the last couple of years, it’s always been hot.While most rush for the mountains as the first bead of sweat trickles down their backs, the rest of us must make do with rickety fans and iced juices. And in true Indian over-achieving spirit, we’ve stuffed them full of life-saving goodness.
Also known as shikanji in Noth India, it’s just Plain Jane Lemonade at first. Then you add a little bit of salt with the sugar, soda for bubbles, crushed mint leaves for colour, maybe ginger for flavour (but not in the summer, it has heaty properties) and top off the froth with a sprinkling of chaat masala. This will be your summer staple, particularly in western and northern India. You’ll find it at 10 rupees a glass on every street corner, though we’d recommend going someplace with tables and requesting mineral water be used in the process.
A further take on the humble nimbu pani, it’s laced with a cumin based mixture that gives it a salty kick. The more posh households will serve it with a topping of boondi–tiny balls of deep fried dough that soak up all the delicious juice and transform into soft, succulent little miracles.
Tender Coconut Water
Available across the country but the pride and joy of South India. Huge stacks of coconuts lie piled up on carts and makeshift stalls on every lazy roadside, a rubbish bin overflows with discarded shells and straws. It’s the healthiest and most delicious option around with the added bonus of slimy coconut flesh to sink your teeth into. The real reason it’s a winner though, is the long and elaborate performance by the Nariyal Paani wallah (coconut-water man). First you’ll be asked to declare your preference–a coconut heavy with flesh or still tender with water. He’ll then swiftly grab at a few in quick succession, tapping with the back of his knife and listening keenly for a nuance that only his finely trained ears can recognize. Suddenly finding the perfect nut, he’ll set it firmly against his thigh and commence slicing through the hard exterior to create a pointy tip, which he will then dramatically behead, stab with a straw and dump in your hands with a theatrical flourish. How can you say no?
Born from the same humble curds, these brothers are dramatically different on your tongue. The first is buttermilk, watered down curd spiced with salt, chopped up green chillies, mint and coriander, churned to a froth and sprinkled with chaat masala. The second is thick, smooth and sweet, the still heavy curd laced heavily with sugar or jaggery and often flavoured with strawberries or mangoes making it more of a milkshake.
Born of the flavour of the season-mangoes, this drink captures the cooling properties of the raw kairi before it becomes a fat ripe mango, known to cause heat boils. The assured freshness of the ingredients, combined with the mangoes natural fortification with vitamins gives this drink, flavoured with salt and spices a particularly medicinal edge. It’ll be pressed upon you by well-meaning aunties across the country, fretting at the sweat on your brow and declaring you dead of dehydration without their help. Also rumored to prevent tuberculosis, anemia, cholera and dysentry.