A fervor for fermentation | Herald of the Deccan


At MG Marg in downtown Gangtok, I stumbled upon the traditional Nepali Roasted salt in a confectionery. Roughly shaped like a donut, the soft brown fermented bread is made with rice soaked in water overnight and pounded with aromatic spices. In Himachal, I found the Siddu Steamed Fermented Bread made with wheat flour and filled with a filling. Although familiar with dose and bhatura, Roasted salt and Siddu might not ring a bell. We find our regional and tribal cuisine to be teeming with fermented foods / drinks which are an integral part of their culture.

What is fermentation? It is a food preservation technique that has been practiced since time immemorial to preserve perishable food for a long time. In the process, it also improves the taste and becomes more nutritious. Biologically, fermentation is an anaerobic process that breaks down carbohydrates into organic acids, alcohol and gases by microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts, fungi).

“Fermented foods are an important source of beneficial microbes that colonize our gut and protect the host from pathogens, thereby boosting our immunity,” said Venkatesan Arul, professor in the Department of Biotechnology at the University of Pondicherry. Traditionally in India no microbes are added but microbes in the environment ferment food. For the curd, a little curd is used to inoculate the hot milk and after six to eight hours the fresh curd is taken.

In the food industry, the fermentation technique is used to modify desirable changes in taste, flavor, nutritional profile and longevity of basic ingredients.

Korean kimchi, Japanese miso, Chinese kombucha, German sauerkraut, American pickles and French Roquefort have become synonymous with the region.

During the pandemic, sourdough bread was a craze. Featured in Masterchef Australia, the rustic panta-bhat (fermented rice and water) from Bengal also known as pakhala to Odisha, poita bhat in Assam, annoy bhat in Chhattisgarh, pani bhat in Jharkhand, pazhedhu sadham in Tamil Nadu and saddi annam in Andhra took the Internet by storm.

“Traditionally, South Indians consumed a lot of fermented foods which gradually declined due to the culture of fast food,” said Arul. from Kerala Kallappam (rice pancake uses grog), Kamban Koozhu (fermented bajra porridge), Mor Kuzhambu (buttermilk based), kanjika (fermented rice water), Ambali (fermented ragi porridge), vadas, appam, Mangalore Banana Buns (made from fermented banana paste) to name a few.

In the West khaman, idla (White dhokla), doli ki roti (fermented Sindhi bread), shrikhand, kurdai (fermented wheat snack), ambil (fermented summer drink), lonché (pickles), fermented dried fish are a few.

There are mattha (buttermilk), a variety of pithas Like chakuli pitha Where podo pitha from Odisha and Bengal, made from fermented rice and black gram, oal ka bharta (mashed yam) from Bihar to the east.

In the north, apart lassi, chhachh and soft Jalebi; the winter special kanji, a fermented drink made from black carrots, red beets, mustard seeds, water and black salt is popular and as a snack kanji vada is popular. Refreshing drink safe for the intestines rabadi is made from buttermilk and barley or jowar Where bajra in Rajasthan and Kulu is prepared with buttermilk and wheat in Himachal Pradesh.

In the Northeast, you can find all kinds of fermented vegetables, bamboo shoots, fish, soybeans, cheese and local liqueur.

“In the northeast, preserving perishable foods by fermentation is an indigenous skill,” said Jyoti Prakash Tamang, professor of microbiology at Sikkim University, Gangtok. Naturally fermented soybeans are an inexpensive source of protein, known as inema, hawaijar, tungrymbai, bekang, aakhone, akhuni and peruya in different states. the movie theater is popular as a meat substitute.

Gundruk (fermented leaves of spinach, mustard, cabbage and radish), to flow (fermented radish taproot), khalpi (fermented cucumber) and anishi (fermented yam leaves) are fermented green vegetables. Tender fermented bamboo shoots are prepared as khorisa, mesu, soibum, ekung and eup, lung-siej respectively in Assam, Sikkim, Manipur, Arunachal and Meghalaya.

In the hills of Sikkim and Ladakh, chhurpi, sour cheese made from fermented yak or cow’s milk is a staple. The softer ones are cooked in curries while the harder ones are chewed like betel nut.

All over the world, milk is consumed because it is rich in nutrients but it is also very perishable. Fermentation in the form of curds, cheese, buttermilk and yogurt preserves them.

Fermentation of fruits or their sap makes natural vinegar like apple cider vinegar, jamun the vinegar, kachampuli (Garcinia vinegar), coconut and toddy vinegar which preserves the meat. Parsi Sal boti, Goan chicken xacuti and Coorg pandi curry also owe their distinctive flavor to a specific vinegar. When it comes to native alcoholic beverages, the fermentation of grapes, rice, malt, barley and millet has a long history. In India, the Adivasis consider mahua Sacred liqueur (Madhuca Indica). Jharkhand and Odisha rice liqueur Handia, the Himalayan tribe Chhang, tongba and arack (fermented mils), Assam lau-pani (rice beer), Goa’s fenni (fermented cashews), toddy from Kerala (palm sap), Bengal and Bihar dried up (sap of khajur tree) are popular.


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