Rhubarb Shikanji - Tart & Sweet Summer Sherbet

Rhubarb Shikanji - Tart & Sweet Summer Sherbet

Recipe by Suman Shah of Fork on a Road
Serves 8–10.

Summers in India meant lip-puckering raw mangoes, tamarind, and kokum flowers transformed into shikanji or sherbet. Laced with spices, these icy beverages are tart, refreshing, thirst quenching, and aid digestion.

Memories of those summer treats inspired me to create this recipe for a rhubarb shikanji to enjoy during the hot months ahead. It’s delicious and is a perfect example of how recipes travel and adapt to fit the regions where families move and settle.

Enjoy the short spring harvest of local rhubarb in a new avatar!

For the shikanji:
2 cups cleaned and diced rhubarb (from about half a pound)
1/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon whole fennel seeds
2 pods black cardamom
1 pod green cardamom
1 small dried red chile or ½ teaspoon Sicilian chile flakes
1–inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ teaspoon sea salt

For the sherbet (1 serving):
1 tablespoon shikanji
2–3 mint leaves
½ teaspoon Chaat Mela
½ cup frozen lemonade,* or ½ cup crushed ice
1 can plain seltzer or tart lemon soda

Make the shikanji  Put the rhubarb and sugar into a heavy bottomed saucepan and set aside. Crush the spices roughly using a mortar and pestle, then tip them into the pan with the rhubarb. Smash the ginger in the mortar and pestle and add it, along with 1/3 cup of water, to the pan of rhubarb. Stir to mix these ingredients.

Set the pan over medium heat and simmer the mixture for 20–22 minutes until it reduces to resemble a loose jam. Set the pan aside and let the rhubarb cool for 15 minutes.Transfer the rhubarb mixture to the jar of a blender. Process until smooth, adding a bit of water (up to 1/3 cup) if needed to ease the blending.

Return the shikanji to the pan. Set the pan over medium/medium-low heat and simmer for 5–8 minutes, stirring constantly — use a long handled spoon as the mixture will bubble and spit at this stage.  Note: This second boil evaporates the liquid added during blending.

Set aside to cool. Pour into a clean jar, cover tightly, and store in the fridge, up to 3 months.

Make the sherbet  Put the shikanji, mint, Chaat Mela, and frozen lemonade (or crushed ice) into a cocktail shaker. Cover and shake for 20 seconds, pour into a glass and top up with the seltzer, if using. For a refreshing cocktail, stir in an ounce of vodka.

*Del’s is nice, if you live in New England!


Suman’s recipes draw inspiration from her Indian roots and a life of almost twenty years in New England. When not hosting cooking classes, she’s busy developing her Market Day Meal Kits for local farmers markets. Suman shares cooking explorations on her blog Fork on a Road, drawing inspiration from different corners of the world. As an instinctive cook, she makes familiar foods in unexpected ways, making them easily adaptable and accessible for a busy life. Find her on Instagram @forkonaroad and learn more about her offerings at www.forkonaroad.com