Let’s Talk Food: The popularity of Greek yogurt


I can remember coming back from a trip to Spain a few years ago, complaining that the yogurt at the market here can’t come close to the yogurt I had every morning, served in a ceramic container. It was creamy, thick and wonderful. I even brought back the individual ceramic containers, about 12 of them, in hopes of figuring out how to make this wonderful yogurt.

In 2005, Hamdi Ulukaya probably had the same thought. He found a yogurt-making plant for sale, and with the help of the Small Business Administration, bought the facility for $1 million dollars and started the Chobani brand of Greek yogurt. Hamdi, son of a Kurdish farmer from Turkey, named his company after the word which means shepherd in Turkish and Greek.

He sold his first Chobani Greek yogurt that year and today has 38 percent of the Greek yogurt sales and 19 percent of the entire yogurt sales in the U.S. This translates to over $1 billion in sales.

So what is Greek yogurt? It is yogurt that has the liquid whey, lactose and sugar removed to produce a thick consistency. One 6-ounce serving of Greek yogurt has about 15-20 grams of protein, which equals to the same amount of protein in a 3-ounce piece of meat.

A six ounce serving of Greek yogurt has about 20 percent of the recommended daily need for calcium.

Since much of the lactose has been removed during straining, most people with lactose intolerance are usually able to tolerate Greek yogurt.

The live bacterial cultures in Greek yogurt that helps with digestion is also a great reason to eat Greek yogurt.

In the Middle East, they found straining their yogurt created an ingredient with a high enough fat content to avoid curdling during cooking. In Turkey it is called “suzme yogurt,” which means “strained yogurt” and in Greece, it is called “straggisto giaourti” and is the principle ingredients to make tsatziki. In India, Greek yogurt is the base to make “raita” which is a side condiment to eat with their sometimes hot dishes. It balances off the dish with its rich creaminess.

The popularity of Greek yogurt does not come without some concerns. This segment of the yogurt business just skyrocketed and the huge quantities of liquid whey became a problem to dispose of. The great possibility of polluting the waterways and depleting the rivers of oxygen are a current concern and the companies are trying to address that problem. If you have ever strained regular yogurt, you can see that amount of liquid whey multiplied millions of times and can understand the potential environmental impact!

The companies looked at making whey feed for animals but the amount needed for feed is not enough to address the problem.

Let’s hope that research and development comes up with a solution to this problem as I don’t think I am willing to give up my Greek yogurt just yet.

Here is my favorite Indian raita recipe. The yogurt must be very thick and not running as the proper way to eat Indian food is scooping it with your fingers (right hand) and swirling it around the dahl or malli char before you eat it.

Raita

Mix together in a bowl:

1 quart thick plain Greek yogurt

2 Japanese or English cucumbers, seeded and cut into small dice

2 tomatoes, seeded and cut into small dice

2 teaspoons gingerroot, grated

2 tablespoon cilantro, chopped fine

Small Bites:

Reading labels is essential when purchasing Greek yogurt as not all are created equally.

Modified corn starch, carrageenan, or guar gum are thickeners that are added to create a thicker yogurt. Greek yogurt should be just strained of its liquid whey. If gelatin has been added, then it is no longer vegetarian. When buying fruit Greek yogurts, if the ingredient carmine is added, it is the natural dye from the body of beetles, to make the yogurt have a reddish fruity color, it is also not deemed vegetarian.

Fage Full Fat Greek yogurt has 16 grams of fat, which is like eating three Snickers bars! Most other Greek yogurts have about 7 grams of fat.

Foodie Bites

Watch for the opening of Lam’s Chinese and Vietnamese Restaurant in the former New Star Restaurant at 172 Kilauea Ave. Sang Lam owned a Chinese restaurant in Orlando, Fla. He came to Hilo seven years ago and grew Okinawa sweet potatoes. His passion for cooking got the better of him and he is anxiously awaiting Department of Health and insurance clearances to open his doors.

Ryan Kadota of Kadota’s Liquors will be holding a kick-off event of June 5 to introduce Dobel’s tequila in a French oak barrel that he purchased on a recent trip to Mexico. Prior to the event, there will be an educational tasting. Please call Ryan at 935-1802 for details.

Please feel free to email me at wilson.audrey@hawaiiantel.net if you have questions.

 

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