It was a warm day as I and Bilal trudged up the hill towards the magnificent Alhambra Palace in Granada. Two hours later with time running out on our ticket, we came down the gently winding road with our stomachs demanding sustenance. Each step made matters worse, as the aroma of Spanish street food wafted around us from restaurants and outdoor cafes. In spite of its wonderful climate and beauty, Spain was proving to be a test of faith for two food-lovers, who were searching for a meal that was not ‘taboo’.

We had almost crossed the small establishment located in a side lane, when the cogs in my brain began whirring, telling me to stop and look – for there through the glass window, I could dimly make out, what could only be a Shawarma. I grabbed the good old Pathan from Peshawar walking beside me and together we rushed into the cool interior of the neat little café.

A robust looking individual, who appeared to be the boss of the establishment, smiled at us from behind the counter as we accosted him in English and enquired if the Shawarma was kosher. “Oh! You are looking for halal meat. Where are you from?” came the rapid fire statement - question from the man. Our response that we were Pakistanis looking for a Muslim meal had an extraordinary effect on him. He became very excited and called out to someone down the basement stairs, “Come up. We have Muslim guests from Pakistan.” What followed next was beyond our wildest dreams, as we were plied with roasted and barbecued meats by the two Moroccan brothers.

Our surprise reached its zenith, when a jug containing a white beverage was produced from under the counter and we found ourselves at the drinking end of the best salted lassi, we had ever ingested. We found ourselves burdened with grateful hospitality when Mohammad and his sibling refused to accept any money from us and insisted that we take a packed Shawarma dinner back to our lodging “just in case”.

My love affair with lassi or ‘Butter Milk’ is as old as my memory, for our table has never been without this drink during the summer months. Extremely popular in the Mediterranean, Central Asian and the subcontinental regions, this beverage is made from yogurt, whisked in milk and water, to be served in a salty or sweet mode.

Lassi comes in three forms - the AdhRirka, the Pakki or Chhati Wali Lassi and the Katchi Lassi. The first is a breakfast item made after whisking creamy milk, yogurt and water into a frothy concoction that is either served sweet or ‘sweet and salty’.

A variant of the AdhRirka is further enriched by adding peras - a confection made from heavily sweetened concentrated rich milk that is boiled to a semi-solid state. A celebrated outlet inside Lahore’s Mochi Gate serves this particular variety to patrons that come from as far away as Rawalpindi, just to savour its captivating flavour.

The Pakki Lassi is actually the residual liquid inside the earthen chhati after butter has been extracted from it. A substitute can, however, be made by whisking yogurt and water in a jug and adding salt to taste. This drink is light and ideally taken in profuse quantities with lunch.

The Katchi Lassi is made from milk and water that is lightly salted. It is usually consumed after gorging ones-self on mangoes. It is supposed to counter any adverse after effects of over consuming the popular summer fruit.

Lassi in all its forms, less the last mentioned, is also believed to carry excellent therapeutic qualities. It certainly maintains hydration levels and provides protection against the effects of the scorching summer heat. However, one side effect of this drink is that it induces sleep and, hence, driving after having a couple of glasses is not advisable.

The bottom line is that this is one beverage that is definitely the king of all drinks, at least in our part of the world, and any of my readers, who have never tasted this deliciously cool white nectar, is seriously advised to do so this summer.

The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.