NiYog’s Coconut Yogurt and Kefir Allude to the Versatility of CoconutJanuary 1, 2018
Creamy and luscious with its distinctive tang—not to mention full of good-for-the-gut ingredients—yogurt is considered a staple among health buffs and food lovers alike. But for reasons that can include dietary or religious restrictions (among others), not everyone can have the commonly-found cows’ milk-based versions. Enter NiYog, a budding enterprise that makes yogurt and other products with a dairy alternative that so happens to be one of the Philippines’ biggest bounties: coconut, which—with the aid of bacteria, combined with owner Ravi Singh’s technical know-how—is transformed into yogurt, kefir, cream cheese, mousse, and more.
Chief among these is the coconut yogurt, made with coconut milk. Thick and creamy with a flan-like consistency, it carries a mild, pleasant tanginess, past which the nuttiness and natural sweetness of the gata shines through. Aside from being dairy-free and vegan, using coconut milk lends it a naturally richer, fattier character and smoother, more velvety mouthfeel than most versions of yogurt sold around—making for an indulgent dessert on its own and a great addition to baked goods, desserts, curries, and other dishes. “There is a lot of industrial know-how that went into it to produce [the yogurt] the way it is,” shares Singh. “I [went through] a lot of trials [and] had a lot of wrong results.” Having grown up eating a lot of yogurt in his home country of India, Singh had high standards on what the good stuff would taste like—and wanted to ensure he would be able to replicate that despite using a different milk base. “When I have something in my head, I don’t give up . . . I don’t care how long it takes.”
Singh—a doctor of naturopathy, yoga acharya, and owner of design and development corporation Sparks of Joy Ventures, Inc. (of which NiYog forms the food division)—first came to the Philippines in 1981, and is an active naturopathic physician who recognizes the importance of making the right food choices on people’s overall well-being. While he was familiar with the culture of yogurt in India and in Europe and believed in the healing power of probiotics, Singh (a “strict vegetarian”, himself) also noticed the number of people who were lactose intolerant (note that those who are especially sensitive may not be able to tolerate even the relatively lower-lactose dairy products such as aged cheese and yogurt). In place of cow’s milk, Singh chose that of coconut, knowing it to have great health properties as well and sharing how the fruit holds a high status in Indian tradition, aside from being available in abundance in the Philippines. “I discovered it has so much more to offer,” he shares. “We wanted to make something for Filipinos, by Filipinos.”
With the success of the coconut yogurt, Singh was encouraged to continue experimenting on other niyog-based products. Among these is the coconut kefir, which is also made with coconut milk as the base similar to the yogurt but packs in even more strains of good bacteria by definition. This is kefir of the sort made for savoring with a spoon, with a consistency that is even denser and thicker (similar to Greek-style yogurt or even mascarpone cheese) than the Coconut Yogurt, and a standout flavor that’s tangier in a more complex, yeasty manner. The heightened sourness might take some getting used to, but don’t let it put you off—it becomes addictive as you work your way spoonful after spoonful, whether you take it plain (if you must, a dollop of coconut nectar or mango preserves on the side to sweeten the mix doesn’t hurt) or, as the author enjoys, spread it on toast as you would with ricotta.
Singh also makes another version of kefir for drinking but with buko, a.k.a. young coconut, whose “water” naturally contains electrolytes and other nutrients—and, in Singh’s experience, many “healing properties”. When fermented, it makes for a beverage with a refreshing fizz and a mild “yeasty” taste characteristic of fermented goods amidst the natural sweetness of coconut water. Available plain or with ginger and lemon, Singh shares that it helps quell the hankering for softdrinks or beer, aside from touting the benefits of probiotics in each thirst-quenching sip.
Our desire is to give you the opportunity to live a healthy, happy life.”
Taking a holistic view of health, Singh sees one’s dietary choices and physical well-being not just as ends in themselves, but also keys to bettering people’s mental and emotional well-being, and the way they thus relate to the world. “We can make a healthy Filipino nation if we provide the proper education with proper nutrition and proper choices,” he explains. Vegan or not, deliberately looking to better your physical health or otherwise, one thing’s for sure: NiYog makes excellent stuff that alludes to the versatility of the humble coconut, and that dairy of the coconut-based sort is a worthy in its own respect.
NiYog makes yogurt, kefir, and other products out of coconut.
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