It’s coming to the end of the year and, alas, COVID-19 still remains right outside our doors. While things have eased somewhat (Phase 3 soon, yay!) and we can meet outside to share meals with our friends and family, the more cautious among might want to consider staying indoors just a while longer. With that in mind, this Plates artist recipe features Navin Rawanchaikul and his “Stay Home, Stay OK Lassi”. The recipe is published as part of the Mori Art Museum’s Stay Home, Stay Creative – MAM@Home project – the Artists Cookbook by MAM in particular – which you may already be familiar with from previous Plates articles. (All recipes can be found on the Mori Art Museum’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.) What can we say? This cookbook is a gift that keeps on giving.
Thai-born Navin Rawanachaikul’s practice is built around the ways in which we live and identify ourselves within this globalised world. Although he was born and raised in Chiang Mai, his parents are from the Hindu-Punjabi communities of present-day Pakistan, which they fled during the partition period. As such, Navin has always experienced life as the ‘other’, an outsider to his own society, an identity he negotiates through his work. That being said, in tumultuous times such as these, one craves a taste of home and familiarity – which leads us to our recipe for today, “Navin’s Stay Home, Stay OK Lassi”. The story of the lassi is one of family and history for Navin, as it is originally from Punjab in India, which is where his ancestors hail from. Lassi is “perfect for everyone, from young kids to grandpa,” Navin explains, it is a drink that is “enjoyed all day long by Indian people.”
Here is Navin’s recipe for Lassi, as shown on the Mori Art Museum’s Facebook page:
I am rather nervous taking over the pan and pen from Pauline, as I am not too experienced in the kitchen, my culinary expertise extending only to pastas and one-pot-stews – but that’s why I have more gastronomically experienced friends in their kitchens to help me make and taste Navin’s lassis.
There are multiple variations to this lassi recipe but I opted to just make the mango one. The recipe is relatively simple. All it requires is plain yogurt, ice, water, honey, salt, and a homemade spice mix.
OK, the last one was a little tricky. You need a mortar, a pestle and a decent amount of elbow grease to pound the cinnamon, cardamom, fennel and cloves into a nice fine powder. However, this also provides a good opportunity to release the day’s stresses. The recipe doesn’t specify how much of each spice to put in but I figured putting in an equal amount of each was pretty reasonable.
You will also need a sieve to get out the cardamom husks and maybe some of those stubborn little spices that refuse to be crushed.
All that is left to do after this is to put everything in the blender and press blend! It’s as simple as that! You can stop blending once everything is combined, nice and smooth. While Navin does specify the amounts of certain ingredients (1 cup of plain yogurt, 4 teaspoons of honey), with ingredients like salt and the spice mix, he encourages you to add as much in as you would like to.
I highly recommended adding some sliced almonds and another quick sprinkle of the spice mix on top before you serve. It makes it just that much more fun to drink and adds another level to the presentation.
One of my friends at this dinner party comes from Bangalore – a mango tree right outside her childhood home – meaning that mango lassis were a summer staple. According to her, this recipe was absolutely delicious.
With all this newfound confidence and an abundance of spice mix, I made the lassis for another group of friends, working by muscle memory. I thought I had over-salted it this time, but was told by another Indian friend that actually the lassis served at restaurants here are usually over-sweetened, and that this one was far closer to what he drinks at home. (Success! I gave him double servings.)
After not having been able to meet for so long, making this recipe was a lovely opportunity to tell my friends in food form how much I had missed them. It felt like a better, safer and more heartfelt way of hanging out, to have intimate little dinner parties at home as opposed to going to crowded restaurants. And if you’re a culinary klutz like me, this simple recipe is a 10/10 recommend!