Nimbu Pani. Translation: Lemon Water. Pronunciation: Nim-boo Paw-nee. Verdict: Poppy and Refreshing.
Through my teen years I traveled abroad extensively. Every summer break I was off gallivanting through China, Cameroon, Thailand, and on several occasions India. These summer mission efforts involved a LOT of sweaty work and hard floors to sleep on, but they also produced an invaluable work ethic, a great deal of fun, and truly adventurous meals.
On these trips, eating guidelines were always set in place to keep our team healthy. The basic rules were:
Only eat fully cooked vegetables and meats.
Only eat fruit with a very thick peel.
And Rule #1, Don’t Drink the Water… EVER. (Only sealed bottled water was allowed.)
One summer, we lived in a remote Indian village with no bottled water for sale. Luckily I had purchased a high-tech camping water purifier and was able to pump MUD from a water-buffalo pond into clean crisp drinking water. Our only alternative was to boil the mud and add iodine tablets–Phlck! That was probably the best $200 I ever spent.
The “water rule” was also bent at the Indian markets, for a refreshing glass of Nimbu Pani.
Nimbu Pani is the Indian version of lemonade (or often Limeade,) so of course it contains lemon or lime, sugar and WATER. Nimbu Pani also has a special ingredient that takes it a step beyond plain old lemonade, SALT. This sweet and salty citrus drink is astonishingly refreshing and the salt intensifies the lemon or lime flavor. It’s an extremely popular street beverage; only overshadowed by Indian’s beverage-of-choice, Chai.
I consumed quite a few Nimbu Pani in the three summers I spent in India. Often I would stand drinking this lemonade out of dingy communal glasses next to a rickety street cart. What can I say, I like to live on the wild side. In the blistering Indian heat, conventional wisdom (and thoughts of parasites) were clouded by this sweet invigorating drink.
Nimbu Pani is something I crave each year as the weather warms up. It’s zingy essence brings back priceless memories of bustling streets, rickshaws, and old friends.
Today I’ve made Nimbu Pani with lime juice; then muddled strawberries and blackberries into the mix for a bright and zippy spring-time beverage. Its intense and alluring flavors will have you muddling and squeezing limes all season! Plus, it’s much more fun to say “Nimbu Pani,” than salty berry limeade! *wink*
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