If you want to up your yogurt game, this Iranian cookbook will show you the whey
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
It's the Persian New Year. Nowruz, which means new day in Farsi, marks the first of spring. Celebrated by millions, it's an ancient holiday rooted in Zoroastrianism, one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions. NPR's Diba Mohtasham prepared for the two-week-long celebration by visiting a yogurt factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
DIBA MOHTASHAM, BYLINE: No matter where we are, Iranians love yogurt. We eat it with everything. So I went to White Moustache Factory, founded by Homa Dashtaki. It's named in honor of her dad's big, bushy handlebar mustache. Their yogurt-making process, which takes three days, is a nod to ancient techniques.
HOMA DASHTAKI: We make yogurt exactly to mimic that process of making it in a bowl and wrapping it up with blankets. I'm sure your grandmother has made it this way - and, like, mimicking that exact - like, using minimal, minimal machinery to get that perfect texture and that, like, very curdled milk.
MOHTASHAM: Around 12 years ago, Dashtaki left a successful law career to start the White Moustache. Since then, the business has developed a cult following among the kind of New Yorkers who buy their yogurt at Whole Foods and the Park Slope Food Coop.
DASHTAKI: So when I first wanted to bring whey to the market, I was like, this is a no-brainer. I'm going to be a bazillionaire with this whey thing. I'm like...
MOHTASHAM: She's talking about whey - W, H, E, Y - which is really just the watery byproduct of the yogurt-making process.
DASHTAKI: I'm like, oh, watch out, Chobani. Here I come. And it was, like, just crickets. Like, nobody got it. Everyone thought it was weird.
MOHTASHAM: But Homa Dashtaki insists that this ingredient is liquid gold. Dashtaki's family back in Iran drinks it by the gallon.
DASHTAKI: Like, we buy it in buckets. Like, you go to the bazaar. And you come back with, like, a little plastic bucket of, like, yogurt. And, like, the whey that gets collected is actually, like, thought of as this medicinal, healthy thing. And, like, you just chug it, you know, super hydrating, probiotic-rich drink.
MOHTASHAM: That's what led Dashtaki to write her new cookbook titled "Yogurt And Whey: Recipes Of An Iranian Immigrant Life." Whey is at the heart of those recipes, from traditional dishes like ghormeh sabzi to whey cocktails, whey ceviche and even whey pancakes.
DASHTAKI: And when you use it in the pancakes, what it does is it keeps your batter really, really light because it doesn't have any heaviness from the solids. And it gives you super crispy edges because it's still dairy. And dairy has a ton of sugars in it that naturally will caramelize. And it's acidic from being yogurt. So it adds, like, a nice little tangy, lemony flavor to your pancakes.
MOHTASHAM: Every drop of food has intrinsic value. That's the spirit of Dashtaki's yogurt business and her cookbook. She's proud of coming from a culture with such a close attachment to food and where it comes from.
DASHTAKI: Like, when they butcher an animal, like, from head to toe, you are using every single piece of it and in a celebratory way, you know? Like, every scrap is not thought of as trash. It's thought of as an opportunity to celebrate that food.
MOHTASHAM: Especially on the Nowruz holiday. In dark days and in light, it's a way to take comfort in what you have.
Diba Mohtasham, NPR News.
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