Guest Post: A Recipe for Indian Lemonade Known as “Shikanji”

August 11, 2014

I recently met someone equally as passionate about spices. Her name is Kelly Elizabeth Moe-Rossetto. She's the force behind The Cardamom Collective on Tumblr. She calls her blog a "Space for Dreamers and Doers." Let's just say I can relate. Since I've been busy growing Reluctant and she's been busy writing about spices, it seemed like a good opportunity to collaborate. This is the second post from Kelly.

By Kelly Elizabath Moe-Rossetto for The Reluctant Trading Experiment

Sunday’s are for shikanji!

At least, this Sunday was. We haven’t had much in the way of heat to complain about here in Minnesota, but today sort of snuck up on me. My boss Anju tells me tales of the cooling drinks of her youth in India, and between the pot of mint outside our doorstep and the new Saveur issue of India arriving this weekend, I decided tonight was the night to try my hand.

Shikanji, like many drinks in India, is a complex profile of flavors and one that varies quite a bit from the typical drinks of my Midwestern upbringing. This is not the yellow sugar shooter of your neighbor kids lemonade stand.

There are a whole range of drinks across the Indian subcontinent that I plan to explore; mint juice, kokum juice and jaljeera among them. Some with pepper, one with ajwain, and plenty of lhassis, but today we will keep it simple. There seems to be a similar drink across desert areas of a frothy sweet lime quality. The sweet lime drinks of the desert will have to be their own post as well, but Egypt was my first encounter with them, and shikanji, though different, leads to some nostalgic sipping.

When you look up shikanji you’ll find many different versions. I have chosen a rather basic version from what I can tell but would love to experiment with the addition of saffron, rose or ginger. Shikanji, often called nimbu pani, frequently includes black pepper, the very best of which you can find here.

Anju told me many times how to make this but for general proportions I used this recipe. Shikanji calls for rock salt, or Indian black salt, called kala namak. It is known for its highly sulfuric taste and a key component in chaat masala. But, I have a jarful of my favorite Icelandic flake sea salt from The Reluctant Trading Experiment and decided to use that instead. I love the sweet taste of the mineral rich hand harvested Icelandic, and although kala namak is traditionally cultivated in a way that gives its sulphuric taste naturally, I have read that it is often lab processed now, and it’s special flavor synthesized. An important attribute of kala namak is that in Ayurveda it is considered cooling, as is cumin, which is why they are used in refreshments throughout the hot summer. India is experiencing it’s most extreme heat in the last fifty years, I can only imagine the millions of shikanji glasses that are begin sold and consumed each day! Making it was simple and I can say a day later it has only gotten better, letting the mint leaves and a few slices of lemons cure is a nice way to extract flavor.

I have been craving the color and sensory experience of India (or what I imagine it to be) so one of my very favorite movies Darjeeling Limited seems an obvious accompaniment to my shikanji this hot August evening. If you have never seen it do yourself a favor, mix yourself up a quick pitcher of this tasty drink, and settle in to a few hours of the visual feast that unfolds before you. Close your eyes and imagine yourself careening through Himalayan mountains over the great expanse of India, sipping chai and shikanji, munching on hot papadums and other street savories. Another film that I enjoyed although not as critically acclaimed was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

So there you have it, dinner and a movie. Well, not quite a full dinner, but the benefit of these drinks is the inclusion of their elemental ingredients, salt and sugar. Often overlooked at our dinner tables and diners, they have the chance to really sing here. Recipe below, adjustments to personal taste encouraged.

Try it and report back!

Shikanji Recipe – Indian Lemonade
Cooling indian drink made during summers

Prep time: 5 mins – Total time: 5 mins

Author: dassana Recipe type: beverages Cuisine: North Indian Serves: 2 full glasses

Ingredients (american measuring cup used, 1 cup = 250 ml)
- 1 medium size lemon
- 2 glasses of water
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- usually uses rock salt or black salt as needed, but I substituted The Reluctant Trading Icelandic Sea Salt
- sugar as required
- 4-5 mint leaves for garnishing – optional
- a few ice cubes

– cut the lemon in to two
– take 2 glasses of a water in a bowl
– with a lemon juice squeezer, squeeze the juice directly into the water
– add black salt, sugar, jeera powder
– stir till the sugar dissolves
– pour the shikanji in glasses. add ice cubes. garnish with mint and serve shikanji immediately
– you can also make the shikanji and chill in the fridge and then serve

If you are making shikanji for fasting, then add rock salt/sendha namak.I have mentioned shikanji (Indian lemonade) recipe details for making two glasses, but you can double and triple the drink.

Jeera powder is actually roasted cumin. The little tiny cumin seeds should be roasted on a pan for just a few minutes on low. I always think they smell a bit like sunscreen when they are fresh, (the best kind of beachy sunscreen, almost like fresh coconut) and when it is roasted it gives up a beautiful, warm nutty smell. Grind it with mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Jaggery is also worth noting. It’s basically cane sugar, not centrifuged and with a few additions such as date syrup. I made my shikanji with Sucanat but in many Indian recipes i have come across jaggery is called for.