Saffron Mango Lassi

The flavour of tropical fruit entered my life in the form of a 200ml tetra pack brick with a folded straw attached to it. It was a valuable and exotic alternative to the most classic flavours: pear, or peach. Extremely popular in the 1990s, tropical fruit juice saw it’s glory shaded by the newcomer ACE, a blend of orange, lemon, and carrot – presumably containing vitamins of the same name. It was my to-go snack at school since my tenderest age, alongside a package of crackers.

I am not sure why tropical fruit juice was my favourite flavour. Perhaps it was its novelty to strike me or its hardly-recognizable identity – what kind of fruit was it made of? In the picture on the package there was a pineapple, but the rest? What was it called? I had no idea, and besides, I hadn’t even tasted a real pineapple on its own before. Banana was the most foreign fruit I had access to.

For years, tropical fruit has remained a mystery to me, and I often had the names messed up – papaya for passion fruit and so forth. At one point, though, things started to become a tad clearer, when experienced tropical fruit in the form of ice cream – pineapple and mango had become pretty common flavours by the end of the 20th century, even in the small town in the middle of nowhere Veneto. People travel, right?

Right. The plain truth is, I never had a real craving for it – people hardly desire what they don’t know. Until now. In the all-mighty economy of the capital, where thousands of individual demands meet the offer of the market, where all nationalities and all cultures collide – in a city which couldn’t feel and be further from the tropics, I have started to eat tropical fruit. The actual fruit.

My love story with avocado has been revealed already. Yet, a part of me felt like there was still space for one more, just to make my carbon footprint even. It happened a few months ago, when J opened the door, back from work, with a yellow box in hand. He had finally been able to go into that Iranian shop near work, he announced, and he couldn’t resist the sight of the newly arrived Alfonso mangoes that were neatly piled into boxes and kept apart by shredded paper -treated like precious, fragile objects. He bought 10 so that he could have the box to carry them, asking, in exchange, to have some ready to eat and some greener ones for good measure.

I had one that same night. It had the most intensely floral, sugary flavour I have ever found in a fruit, ever. It tasted of sunscreen and hot days on the shore – in the best possible way. Juice running down my forearm, I was  licking my fingers, sucking every bit from the mid stone, and silently begging for more… But then, I thought, I had to pause myself to prolong and re-live the pleasure in the following days. After eating mangoes straight from the fruit bowl sitting on the table for a few nights, fruit as sweet as cake, needing nothing added to it, J suggested us making lassi. To which, I responded: a what? Only later did I remember that night at the Bombay Cafe downtown – I had ordered a savoury mango lassi as a drink to go along the cornucopia of beautifully spiced dishes on the menu.

One Saturday morning, then, I made my own, not savoury but still unsweetened. I am not sure with what logic I added these spices, but my instinct told me to follow the way of cardamom and saffron, the first to add a hint of extra exoticism, the other to enhance the sunny, bright yellow hue of the pureed mango. I was trusting that the sweetness of the fruit and the creaminess of the final result were going to be forgiving towards these additions. In fact, both spices not only blended in perfectly but also gave this lassi a novel depth of flavour and another layer of aromas, which made it particularly attractive to my senses.

12 Comments

  1. Zita August 12, 2013

    Oh yum! It looks amazing!

    Reply
    • Valeria August 13, 2013

      Thank you, Zita! I am totally hooked myself…:)

      Reply
  2. thelittleloaf August 12, 2013

    The colours in that lassi are absolutely stunning!

    Reply
    • Valeria August 13, 2013

      I know, the mango was very ripe and orange and the saffron just gave it that extra kick…:)

      Reply
  3. phi August 13, 2013

    I love mango lassi – but I get really disappointed when there are no spices added. I love your take with saffron and cardamom. Genius!

    Reply
    • Valeria August 13, 2013

      First off, very nice to meet you, Phi, and thank you for stopping by and allowing me to find your lovely blog! That said,I am totally with you, a mango lassi with no spices is like an outfit without accessories -a bit basic, a tad bland 🙂

      Reply
  4. Peanut August 16, 2013

    Quanto mi piacerebbe avere qui a disposizione tutta la frutta esotica che conosco solo perchè l'ho vista in foto e perchè confusa insieme ad altri frutti in qualche succo tropicale! Mango e avocado, che si trovano fortunatamente facilmente anche qui, non me li faccio proprio mancare! E quando riprendo il mango, di sicuro non mi faccio mancare questo lassi, profumato allo zafferano, dev'essere proprio una meraviglia *.*
    un abbraccio

    Reply
    • Valeria August 31, 2013

      Ah sapessi, qui c'è anche troppa scelta, a volte uno si chiede cosa siano certe cose dall'aspetto un po' losco 🙂 ma i manghi e co. ho imparato a conoscerli bene -adoro!

      Reply
  5. lumi August 30, 2013

    Ciao Valeria, quest'estate a Londra (sono quella che ti aveva chiesto le dritte, lette purtroppo solo ad un giorno dalla partenza..) stavamo nel quartiere di Sheperd's Bush, pieno di alimentare mediorientali. Facevamo la spesa della frutta in un negozio siriano fornitissimo di spezie -Damas Gate- e non mancavo mai di comprare i mitici alphonso mango o anche honey mango!! Erano parte della nostra colazione, oppure tramutati in smoothie ghiacciato al rientro a casa nei caldi pomeriggi di luglio.
    Qui in Italia ce li sogniamo..

    Reply
    • Valeria August 31, 2013

      Ma sai che nel primo periodo, le prime tre settimane di vita Londinese, vivevo proprio vicino a Sheperd's Bush Market? Conosco bene la zona, davvero il paradiso dell'esotico. Eh, immagino, non mi pare di aver mai visto gli Alphonso Mango in Italia…Sono ufficialmente il mio frutto preferito!

      Reply
  6. Marcellagiorgio September 2, 2013

    Ciao Valeria!
    Sono da Luca e qui i manghi sono di casa :-))) ovvio!!
    Lui se ne mangia uno a sera e anche noi lo imitiamo.
    Poi ce ne infileremo anche qualcuno in valigia che in Italia non ne troviamo di così buoni.
    Oggi pomeriggio credo di aver bevuto il miglior lassi di mango della mia vita e stasera torno a casa apro il tuo blog e ..
    Bellissimo!!"

    Reply
  7. Valeria September 4, 2013

    Marcella!! Non sai che piacere mi hai fatto con il tuo commento! 🙂

    Non ci avrei mai sperato, ed invece i manghi alphonso qui a Londra sono buonissimi (probabilmente non come a Singapore ma ci si accontenta :D). Il problema è che creano dipendenza! Mi sono proprio innamorata del mango lassi, non vedo l'ora che sia di nuovo estate per rifarlo senza remore 🙂

    Reply

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