Tuesday February 10, 2009

Pakistani Style Lemonade (Neembu Pani)

Since this blog is named after salt and lemons I have decided to post my very first blog in honor of these two ingredients in the simplest form, Neembu Pani or Indian-Pakistani style lemonade. The first time I encountered this beverage was when I was down with the flu and my mother-in-law made me neembu pani to ease my stomach.

When she handed it to me I was sure it would make things worse but very soon after it really did help settle my stomach and I have been a believer ever since. The combination of fresh lemon juice, sugar and just enough salt to taste is so refreshing and soothing. I have had other variations that use black salt and some add cumin seeds, but the simplicity of this version suits me best.

The only adjustment I have made over the years is substituting the granulated white sugar for blue agave sweetener. I buy it at our local Trader Joe’s and just love it. It is extracted from the core of the blue agave plant hence the name. I like it because it is 25% sweeter than granulated sugar, which means I can use less, and the Glycemic index is 39 or less and I don’t have to waste any time dissolving it into the liquid. It is similar to honey but milder in flavor if you use the light or amber varieties. The dark variety is better suited for recipes with stronger flavors and a need for more caramel notes. It has about 60 calories per tablespoon.


I am spoiled to have a beautiful Myer lemon tree in my backyard that produces perfectly balanced sweet/sour lemons all year long. If Myer lemons are not available than you will have to adjust the sweetness and the salt in this recipe to your likeness because Myer lemons do make all the difference but do not fear, either way the combination is a winner.

For the salt I use kosher. The Diamond Crystal brand in the big red box is my favorite because of the simple salt taste and the size of the crystals are really easy to dissolve.

So if your down with a cold or need a pick me up try a glass of neembu pani. You don’t need to wait for summertime to enjoy, though it is great on a hot day to quench your thirst too.


Indian-Pakistani Style Lemonade (Neembu Pani)
You are looking for a slight sourness from the lemon but more of the sweetness and a slight salty finish. If you need to adjust I would add a little at a time. If sweetness is needed add 1 tablespoon at a time and for the salt 1/8 teaspoon at a time. You may need to add a bit of both as one affects the other.

1 cup or about 4 medium size Myer lemons
4 cups water
1/2 cup blue agave sweetener
1 tsp. kosher salt


Juice the lemons with the pulp avoiding the pits. Mix the water with the juice in a non reactive pitcher. Add the agave and salt and stir until completely dissolved. Let the mixture rest for about 10 minutes and give one last stir. Taste to see that the flavors are balanced. If you are under the weather resist the urge to add ice and drink this room temperature. I find it more soothing.

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