Indian yogurt drink lassi growing in popularity in Ithaca

May 02, 2016 No Comments by

by Alexis Forde and Rachel Mucha

Lassi is known to many as a special drink of Indian origin, made with yogurt, milk and spices or fruit, primarily offered in Indian restaurants. Now, an Ithaca couple is making this drink accessible in many grocery stores.

Amrit Singh and Ipshita Pall created That Indian Drink, a brand of lassi made in Ithaca. While working as an IT consultant in New York City, Singh would often come across New York State ads that promoted the state as the “Silicon Valley of Yogurt.” After realizing that there was an abundance of milk in New York State and that yogurt was a very popular snack among state residents, he knew what he wanted the next step in his life to be.

“That was his intention, that milk is in abundance over here and greek yogurt had taken the entire nation by storm, and it was the perfect time for us to bring about an Indian version of our drink to [the] nation,” Pall said.

Singh said That Indian Drink is most popular on the East Coast, but the company is now expanding south and west, with drinks being sold in Florida and Washington state. Just this year, That Indian Drink added two new flavors: apple beet and cranberry orange.

The drink itself is a type of lassi that is more similar to a smoothie, coming in a variety of other flavors such as blueberry cardamom, raspberry cinnamon and alphonso mango. Though this lassi may seem very similar to other yogurt products on the market, Pall said it is nothing at all like the other products.

“It’s very, very different. What’s there in the market is just drinkable yogurt,” she said. “We’re adding spices to our flavor, and we’re adding a full serving of fruit to each drink, so it’s not only healthy and probiotic, but it’s also healthy with a lot of fiber.”

With the use of whole fruit, the lassi becomes more like a smoothie and less like the traditional drink that many people know.

With traditional lassi, the milk and yogurt is made at a much slower pace than it is when Pall makes her lassi.

“It’s cultured very slowly as opposed to shocking the yogurt or your milk,” Ipshita said. “The culturing time is pretty high in our case, so that gives a very different flavor profile. Even though it’s made with low-fat milk, it still gives you a good malt feel.”

Though ingredients from the lassi made by Ipshita do not come directly from Ithaca, she still makes sure she sources them directly from farmers.

“We believe in supporting our farmers directly,” she said. “We’re doing a farm to table thing: We pick up crops from the farmers directly every season, and then we process them at our end.”

Though lassi is now conveniently sold at Wegmans, there are still restaurants like New Dehli Diamonds, located in the Commons, that serve fresh lassi.

Kamalbeep Sekhon, who works at New Delhi Diamonds, likes the idea of lassi being sold in stores but said that fresh lassi is often better. The restaurant offers a few varieties of it.

“We have mango, sweet and salted. Sweet and salted is just a yogurt with some milk and rosewater and put some sugar,” Sekhon said. “Or salted: add some salt and dried mango powder to make it [a] little nice and flavory.”

Sekhon said though lassi can hold its own as a drink here, in India it is often complemented with food.

“For lassi, you drink it and it’s really hydrating and everything, so it can go by itself, too, but back home we all drink it with [a] meal,” Sekhon said.

Lassi is very popular among students and has a huge presence in Collegetown. Marissa Caldwell, a student at Ithaca College, said she enjoys the drink and thinks it pairs well with food.

“I went to Sangam Indian Restaurant in Collegetown for the first time and my significant other recommended I try,” Caldwell said. “I am a huge fan of lassis alongside spicy food. I wouldn’t usually drink one on its own for fun. It’s a great complement to spice.”

Sekhon said having lassi and other cultural foods like it in a town like Ithaca is good because it gets Americans to recognize other cultures and entices them to consider traveling there one day.

That Indian Drink is bringing the two cultures together, so customers can get a quality product that will taste just as good as if they made it themselves, but with all of the elements of Indian lassi, Pall said.

“The way you would make smoothies at home we apply [sic] it at our plant,” Ipshita said. “So if you make a blueberry smoothie you wouldn’t skimp on fruit in any way, you would put [an] abundance of blueberry fruit in it and blend it with your yogurt. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do as well, give you guys a feeling that what [you] can do at home, you can buy it even at the stores.”

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