Something deep within my memory was unlocked after months of dormancy as I sipped on nimbu pani (which translates to “lime water” and is the Indian version of limeade) at the Apna Indian Kitchen restaurant in downtown Santa Barbara. With each taste, I strolled deeper and deeper into the memories of my childhood and awoke a craving that I hadn’t been privy to in some time. 

As a child, every trip to India involved the transport of many highly desired American products to India for our enormous extended family, suitcases packed with more iPhones and handbags than any of our personal belongings. And in our return to the states, we were always heavily rewarded. Heavily rewarded not just with the best silver and gold jewelry but especially with the local sweets, snacks and spices that couldn’t be found easily here in America. Among the spices that we often brought back was, in my opinion, the culinary claim to fame of my people, specifically of those practicing the Jain religion: the famous Jain shikanji masala. This masala is a magic cure-all for any weak-tasting dish, and in my household, we used it on everything from fruits to curries and especially in our drinks. The masala is the spice that, when mixed with the right ingredients, is meant to produce a most revitalizing drink that hails from northern India. The drink possesses citrusy notes brought out in a wonderfully refreshing melange of Indian spices and a light kiss of mint flavor from the garnishing leaves. 

Now, I know that unfortunately many of you will not be able to easily get your hands on this Jain shikanji masala, so below I have attached for you a simpler recipe for nimbu pani, which I once thought was highly different from shikanji but is actually quite similar save for the fact that it doesn’t use the shikanji masala but rather a more simple chaat masala that you can find at any local international market. 

Nimbu pani:

Yield: 2 servings

Duration: 10 minutes


  • Crushed ice (as much as you’d like)
  • A big bowl
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 medium-sized lemons or 4 small limes
  • 6-8 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin 
  • 1 teaspoon chaat masala
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon black salt (you can use regular salt instead)
  • Mint leaves to garnish


  1. Add the crushed ice to a big bowl
  2. Pour 4 cups of your cold/room temperature water into the bowl
  3. Squeeze the lemon or lime juice into the water
  4. Add all the above listed spices and stir carefully with each addition
  5. Garnish with mint leaves, an extra sprinkle of chaat masala and enjoy!

Again, once you make this recipe, you will get a taste for what parts of it you enjoy and what you don’t. Feel free to make modifications and turn it into your own version of limeade. Often I have seen people remove sugar from the dish all together to really bring out the more acidic flavors of the drink, which is certainly not for the faint of heart but provides an equally refreshing taste. I have also seen Apna Indian Kitchen use gingerade as part of the drink, which I loved (but my friends, not so much). Whatever you do, remember to drink it as fast as possible since it is most enjoyable at a chilled temperature. 

A version of this article appeared on p. 8 of the May 2, 2024 version of the Daily Nexus.