06/24/13 10:41am

Desify: Doodh, Where’s My Punjabi Summer Drink?

Punjabis know a thing or two about beating the heat. (Summer temperatures in that region of northern India typically hover above 100 F.) Doodh Coke and shardai are two refreshing, chilled drinks that Punjabis on both sides of the India-Pakistan border guzzle when temperatures soar.

Doodh Coke. Photo by Anne Noyes Saini.

Photo by Anne Noyes Saini.

In Punjabi (and Hindi/Urdu), “doodh” means milk, and doodh Coke is exactly that: milk mixed with Coca-Cola (or Thums Up cola, if you want a fully Indian experience).

In Lahore, where my father-in-law grew up (under the British Raj), this creamy drink with a sweet, fizzy edge is a popular way to break the Ramadan fast before the iftar meal. Lahoris have also invented several variations, in which Coke is replaced by 7-Up or Mountain Dew (yes, really).

The ratio of milk-to-Coke is a matter of personal preference. If creamy, less sweet drinks are your thing, two-thirds milk to one-third Coke is the way to go (as my husband will attest). But if you enjoy a more sugary, carbonated bite in your beverages—similar to a New York egg cream or a liquefied Coke float—flip that ratio around.

Whatever you do, be sure to add the milk before pouring in the Coke. Just trust me on that.

Shardai. Photo by Anne Noyes Saini.

Photo by Anne Noyes Saini.

If (like me) you avoid dairy products, shardai (pronounced “sure-DIE-ee”) is a better bet for summer refreshment. This simple drink—a combination of pureed almonds and honey dissolved in ample water—is totally vegan and very healthy (and who can resist a drink endorsed by Sikh warriors?).

Some shardai recipes also incorporate extra seasonings, like fennel seeds, cardamom, saffron, and even black pepper. But my mother-in-law’s recipe adheres to the simple basics. It’s refreshingly light and mildly sweet, with almond undertones that are just barely detectable. It’s a great liquid breakfast on a scorching hot day—whether you’re in New Delhi or New York City.

Shardai (Chilled Almond Drink) / makes 2 glasses

20 raw almonds (soaked overnight in a glass of water)
2 large mugs of water
2-4 tablespoons of honey (depending on how sweet you like your drinks)
Ice cubes (optional)

Soak almonds in water overnight (or for 8-10 hours).

Drain water and squeeze off the almond skins (or not—I prefer skins on: fiber!).

Add the almonds, 2 tablespoons of honey, and a little bit of the water to a blender. Slowly puree the almonds, gradually adding more water as you go (and more honey, if desired)—until the almonds and honey are a fine paste.

Add remaining water and blend into a smooth, thin liquid.

Chill before drinking, or serve over ice.

Check out Anne Noyes Saini’s ongoing food + audio projects on SoundCloud.

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