Stating the obvious, India (in the main) is a hot country. Yes, the north gets cold in the winter and has four distinct seasons, but the vast majority of the country is hot year round. This means a lot of sweaty people. Myself included. There’s no escaping it in humid Mumbai and is something we’ve had to accept and learn to live with.
All this sweating means having to drink a lot of water to keep hydrated. Even better than that though is nimbu pani, literally lemon (or lime) water. Ubiquitous all over India, and especially in the summer it’s India’s version of a fresh lemon/limeade. It’s usually both sweet and salty and helps to replace lost electrolytes as well as boost your vitamin C levels.
Nimbu pani is often pimped up with sulphurous black salt, cumin or chaat masala, but I prefer the simple sweet and salty version. Indians however like it very sweet and salty, but I’ve learned to ask for it just the way I like it – thoda si cini aur thoda sa namak (a little sugar and a little salt).
Nimbu pani is usually made with the local kagzi limes – an acid lime that tastes more like lemon than lime. But as we’ve currently got a couple of lime trees bearing fruit in our back garden, I’ve used these. I’m not sure of the variety so if any of you out there can identify them I’d be super grateful. Tasting more like conventional Persian limes, thin-skinned and dark mottled green in colour, they are shaped round and have an orange colour flesh that holds a ton of seeds!
My recipe makes quite a subtle flavoured nimbu pani so feel free to alter the quantities of the ingredients to your taste. The soda water option (my favourite) also makes a pretty good mixer if you fancy making a boozier version.
Nimbu Pani (makes 1 glass)
Juice of a ¼ lime (or lemon)
½ tsp caster sugar
Pinch of sea salt
200ml chilled water/soda water
A couple of ice cubes
Sprig of mint
Small wedge of lime
In a small jug dissolve the sugar and salt in the lime juice. Top up with the water/soda water. Stir thoroughly and pour into a glass. Add the ice cubes, mint, wedge of lime and gulp down!