Yogurt is a product universally liked and many variations of yogurt have established a niche market in western countries. Traditionally curd, made and consumed in India for centuries is a culinary item served during meals in the southern part of India for mixing with rice as a last course of a meal. In contrast people in northern parts of the country consume curd after beating with sugar or salt, called Lassi as a refreshing beverage. Some times Lassi is flavored with aromatic essences for making it more tasty. The salted version of Lassi has the advantages of a reduced calorie count. Blends of fruit pieces or pulps preserved for a few days through modern technology are very popular among kids in the West and this approach is considered a desirable one to attract children to these products, claimed to be rich in pro and pre biotics with many health attributes. Frozen yogurt is another version that is widely accepted as a dessert in place of ice cream products which are increasingly being shunned due to high sugar and fat contents. If recent reports regarding the development of a carbonated Lassi are true, another hitherto untried version of this product may be available one day to the consumers. Here are some details about such a product reported from a famed dairy research organization in India.
It's a perfect healthy carbonated drink for those who want to avoid heavy calories and sugar," Tomar said.After four years of intense research, scientists at the National Dairy Research Institute ( NDRI) in Haryana have discovered a bacteria stain, Leuconostoc Ln 27, which will be used to manufacture carbonated sweet lassi, just like the soft drinks. "Efforts are on to get the process of preparation of the beverage patented, since patent of organisms is not allowed in India," Sudhir Tomar, senior scientist at the Dairy Microbiology Division, NDRI, told Deccan Herald on Tuesday. "The sweetened carbonated Lassi will be 35 per cent less in calories and 65 per cent low in sugar and sans any artificial sweetener," he added. "The bacteria is unique in its phenomenal ability to release a very high level of natural sweetener, mannitol, when it reacts with sugar in curd. It turns the sweet mixture into a very high value mannitol that preserves the sweetness and is low in sugar content as well. Carbon dioxide is naturally released during the process, which adds fizz," Tomar said. The process took nearly four years, during which nearly 200 plant and animal samples were examined. The research team comprised Falguni Patra, A K Singh and Rameshwar Singh. The NDRI plans to sell the patented technology to a company interested in manufacturing the lassi in the country. Officials at the NDRI said the carbonated lassi would be pitched as a substitute for soft drinks and is likely to appeal to children and teenagers.
Drinks like Doogh, Ayran, Labban etc popular in Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and other countries are also basically curd preparations with minor variations in composition and preparation mode. Basically Lactic acid bacteria belonging to several species have the capacity to convert Lactose present in the milk to lactic acid and the final texture and taste are influenced by the make up of the seeding culture used for fermentation. Casein and other proteins present in milk naturally get precipitated as the acidity develops. The carbonated Lassi, the new product developed in India apparently used a Leuconostoc strain isolated from indigenous sources and its uniqueness lies in generating sweet Mannitol imparting natural sweetness, avoiding too much loading with sucrose as done during preparation of traditional Lassi products. Another unusual feature is that the product has in situ generated CO2 in stead of the high pressure carbonation method used by the fizz drink industry. How far the product can be called carbonated is not sure because traditional CO2 infusion creates pressure as high as four atmosphere. Probably this product is more akin to Champagne though it is not clear regarding the CO2 pressure developed. It will be interesting to see the organoleptic experience of drinking a carbonated product with such high levels of suspended solids and that it self is exciting!