Dubai: On a hot summer day in Ramadan, people crave for a chilled drink to end their fast. One such drink, which is very popular among the expatriates from the subcontinent, is lassi, a traditional yogurt-based drink. But, where can one find the best version of this drink in the UAE?
To answer that question, Gulf News opened the question out to its readers and asked for suggestions. Once we had a list, a total of 25 places, we put up a poll on the Gulf News Facebook page and asked our followers to vote.
Based on their votes, the top five places in the UAE were picked. Gulf News then visited each place and here’s a look at what each has to offer, along with our verdict.
#1: Karachi Darbar
The lassi served at this chain of restaurants won many accolades from Gulf News readers. Naeem Sajid, a Pakistani national based in Sharjah, loves the lassi they sell and was among the people who voted to make them number one on our list. Hailing from the Punjab district of Pakistan, where the drink is extremely popular, he finds that the one available at Karachi Darbar comes close to being perfect.
He said: “It needs to have a specific amount of yoghurt and should not be too thick. If it is, you feel heavy and sleepy after consuming it. But, after having the one at Karachi Darbar, you stay fresh even after drinking it, in fact it makes you feel energetic!”
In the summer, he says he can consume two glasses of their lassi in a day. But, when he can’t visit the restaurant, he chooses to make it at home.
Patras Masih, head chef at Karachi Darbar’s Al Muteena, Dubai branch, told Gulf News: “I don’t think you can find such lassi anywhere else. We use all fresh ingredients and each glass is special. The quantity of yoghurt and milk is also equal, everything is measured.”
He informed the newspaper that their recipe is fixed. The amount of milk, yoghurt and sugar are measured carefully for each glass prepared.
He said: “It isn’t hand whipped, we blend it using a machine for a minute. We also add a special ingredient, which is the Karachi Darbar secret recipe. During Ramadan, most customers order lassi with suhoor. People from Ajman, Sharjah and Dubai seem to love it.”
In one branch, they manage to sell between 50-100 glasses per day. But, the bigger branches manage to sell about 200 glasses in a day.
Gulf News verdict: It was quite milky and very sweet to taste. But, the plus point, it is served chilled and seems ideal for someone who is ending a 15-hour fast.
#2 Al Afadhil Restaurant
Gulf News reader Hisham Abbas, an Indian national based in Sharjah, was among the people who voted for this outlet’s lassi. Hailing from Kerala, he spoke about how lassi wasn’t very popular in his hometown growing up. Now, things have changed, and hundreds of outlets are selling the popular drink. So, he compares Al Afadhil Restaurant’s lassi to all those back home and around the UAE.
He said: “It’s quite different and very sweet. It’s not like the typical lassi. It’s provided in a mud pot and you cannot really drink it. You have to use a spoon to eat it, it’s that thick! But, I can have it at any time of the day.”
He did, however, say that he still hasn’t been able to find the lassi that he has consumed around India. But, he credits that to the taste of the yogurt, which is different in his home country.
When the restaurant was approached by Gulf News, the staff were initially very hesitant to speak to us. But, they did inform us that their recipe is top secret. The lassi is prepared at the owner’s home and is then delivered to the restaurant to be served to their customers. How do they get the extremely thick texture? Your guess is as good as ours.
Gulf News verdict: We can guarantee that you have to consume the lassi with a spoon. It was very sweet, just as the name suggests, and has a thick texture. It was served in a traditional clay pot, which adds to the taste.
#3 Truck Adda Restaurant
What makes this restaurant’s lassi different from others? They state they are using fresh cow’s milk, which is purchased every morning from Dubai Municipality’s Cattle Market in Al Qusais.
Aaquib Arif, co-owner of the restaurant, told Gulf News: “Every morning, our purchase manager visits the market at Fajr time to buy fresh milk. This is then boiled and the malai [cream] is separated. And it is then mixed with yoghurt and sugar in a big pot, using a wooden stick.”
The restaurant serves both sweet and salty lassi and during the summer season, the mango variant is available. The drink is quite popular amongst their customers, including Westerners.
Arif said: “In a day, we sell between 50-100 glasses. It goes to almost every table. We are making purely Pakistani lassi. Some people don’t use fresh milk, they use powder or packet milk instead, which is where the difference in taste arises.”
This is what appeals to Gulf News reader Bilal Bhaila, a Pakistani national based in Dubai. He visits the restaurant for its authentic feel and loves the environment, which reminds him of home.
He said: “The atmosphere adds to the flavour, the whole feel of being in Pakistan. And the best is when they add the malai on top.”
He appreciates the fact that they used fresh cow’s milk to prepare their lassi. He has tried many other restaurants that serve lassi, but keeps going back.
Gulf News verdict: We tried the lassi at the Jumeirah Lake Towers branch. It was served in a tall, metal glass, with a layer of cream on top and a slightly thick lassi hiding below it. It wasn’t exceedingly sweet but, as you consume it, you can tell from the distinct taste that it is made from fresh cow’s milk, which some might not find to be to their liking.
#4 Lassi Shop
With 10 branches in just the Deira area of Dubai, the lassi served by this brand is quite popular among its customers. What appeals to many is not just the taste, but also the price of the lassi.
Hafsa Zaheer, an Indian national based in Dubai, said: “Their sweet lassi is priced at just Dh4. It is very affordable and sometimes we cannot believe that he is selling such good lassi for such a low price. And there are different flavours, too.”
Her family keeps going back to the store. Her personal favourite is their mango lassi, which she believes has a prominent taste of the fruit. “It is also very refreshing and goes down smoothly on a hot day in Ramadan,” she added.
Hussain Faizullah Malatwala, the manager of one of the stores we visited in Deira, informed us that they manage to sell about 500 glasses of lassi in a single day. And the number increases on the weekends.
He said: “We have a recipe that others probably don’t use. The sweet lassi is made of fresh yogurt, cream, sugar and some secret ingredients. It is not too thick, nor too thin. But, people can easily drink it. We also serve mango lassi, which has fresh mango pulp in it.”
Gulf News verdict: The drink was served in a disposable cup, with a thick straw. This definitely made it easy to consume the lassi. It was a good balance of milk and cream, but would have been better chilled.
#5 Pind Da Dhaba Restaurant
When you read the name, you instantly know they will be serving a Punjabi lassi.
Gulf News reader Ankita Bhowmick, an India national based in Sharjah, is a big fan of the drink they prepare and labels it the “best” she has had in the UAE thus far.
She said: “The consistency is perfect. The way they serve it in a clay pot is great! It adds to the experience. And it’s a large glass, so we usually split it between two people. If you have the entire glass alone, you cannot eat anything after.”
She has had lassi in several parts of India and finds the lassi served at Pind Da Dhaba Restaurant to be authentic and quite similar to the ones she has had in the Indian state of Punjab.
Sachin More, restaurant manager at Pind Da Dhaba Restaurant, explained that they serve traditional Indian Punjabi lassi and their chef also hails from the state.
He said: “He adds a secret masala (mixture of spices) to make it extra special. If you visit Punjab in India, you will see that everyone loves lassi. And since we have an authentic Punjabi restaurant, we have kept the tradition and serve all our guests the lassi first and then the food. Our customers find it very refreshing and love the kulhad, or clay pot.”
Every day, the restaurant sells about 30-35 glasses of lassi and on the weekend, the number is doubled. Their lassi is made of fresh yogurt, sugar, chopped almonds and cardamom. It is whipped by hand and topped off with the ‘secret masala’ and saffron.
Gulf News verdict: Their version of the drink is also quite thick. It tastes really nice, especially the hint of saffron on top. Although we don’t know what their secret ingredient is, it definitely adds a punch and this lassi is worth a try.