Ayurvedik India

Kimchi Salad and 4 Easy Indian Fermented Foods: Benefits of Fermentation

Introduction

Step into the kitchen, where age-old traditions and modern wellness seamlessly converge in the enchanting world of fermented foods like kimchi salad, dhokla and much more. Beyond the bustling food trends and fleeting dietary fads, the practice of fermentation stands as a timeless testament to the extraordinary synergy between flavour and health.

Imagine the light, airy beauty of a well risen sourdough, or the spicy dance of sauerkraut on your tongue. Every mouthful bears witness to the unseen magic work of microbes that turns commonplace components into nutrient-dense marvels. However, the benefits of fermented foods extend beyond the kitchen counter and remain within us, providing a multitude of advantages beyond the typical. Come along on a culinary adventure where the stars are kimchi, miso, and kefir—not just as delicious delights, but also as potent friends in fostering intestinal health.  Every taste in the world of fermented foods is an invitation to set off on a delightfully nourishing path to a more vibrant, well-fed version of yourself

What is Fermentation and Fermented Food?

Foods labelled as fermented have undergone a fermentation process, in which microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, or molds change sugars and other organic components. Beneficial substances including organic acids, vitamins, and enzymes are produced as a result of this process. Foods that have undergone fermentation not only have better flavour and texture, but they also have more nutritional content and a longer shelf life.

Benefits of Fermented Foods

Microbial Diversity: The range of microorganisms found in a certain habitat, such the gastrointestinal system, is referred to as microbial diversity. Improved health outcomes are linked to a broad variety of gut microorganisms. Numerous bacterial species carry out different tasks, and a healthy microbial environment is assumed to support both general health and a healthy digestive tract. The gut’s microbial diversity increases when a variety of live bacteria are introduced through fermented meals. The gut microbiota that results from this variety is likely to be more robust and stable, making it less prone to imbalances and disruptions.

Probiotics: When ingested in sufficient quantities, probiotics, which are living bacteria, offer health advantages to the host (people).  Probiotics enhance gut health by maintaining the balance between beneficial and harmful microorganisms. They can boost digestion, fortify the immune system, and prevent the growth of dangerous microorganisms.  Bacterial strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are common probiotics. Probiotics can be found naturally in fermented foods. When consumed, the live bacteria in foods like yogurt and kimchi function as probiotics. Regular consumption of these items can help keep the gut flora in a healthy balance.

By-products of Fermentation: During the metabolic process of fermentation, simple molecules made of carbohydrates are broken down by microorganisms, usually yeast or bacteria.  Organic acids like lactic acid and acetic acid are produced during fermentation. The gut’s acidic environment, produced by these acids, can promote the development of helpful bacteria while suppressing the growth of pathogenic ones. These fermentation by-products, which you absorb when you eat fermented foods, can have a beneficial effect on the gut environment and promote general gut health.

Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs): Fatty acids with fewer than six carbon atoms fall under this category. They are created when gut bacteria, especially those in the colon, digest food fibers. SCFAs, particularly butyrate, provide the colon’s lining cells with energy. This can promote the gastrointestinal tract’s health and preserve the integrity of the gut barrier.

Because of their anti-inflammatory qualities, SCFAs can help control the immune system and lessen intestinal inflammation. For the gut environment to remain balanced and healthy, this is essential.  Foods that have undergone fermentation, particularly those high in dietary fiber, aid in the fermentation process and produce SCFAs. These foods support a number of elements of gut health by raising the SCFA levels in the gut.

Support for the Immune System:  A healthy immune system is influenced by a varied and well-balanced microbial population. The gut contains a large percentage of the immune system, and the microbiota in the gut is essential for controlling immunological responses. Probiotics, which are found in fermented foods, can interact with immune cells and affect the immune response. They could boost immune cell activity and assist in maintaining the delicate equilibrium between pathogen protection and tolerance.

Certain molecules created during fermentation, including SCFAs, have anti-inflammatory qualities that can help create a less inflammatory environment in the gut, which promotes the health of the immune system as a whole. Frequent ingestion of fermented foods releases bioactive chemicals and probiotics into the gut, which may impact immune system function and facilitate a well-balanced immunological response.

Lactose Digestion: Milk and dairy products include lactose, a sugar. In order for the body to absorb glucose and galactose, which are simpler sugars, lactose must first be broken down. The enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose, may be present in lower concentrations in certain people. In fermented foods, especially those that include lactic acid bacteria, the gut flora create lactase, which aids in the breakdown of lactose. These bacteria can help break down lactose for those who may not be able to digest it.

Kimchi Salad

Kimchi salad, a popular Korean dish, is a type of salad made with fermented vegetables, primarily Napa cabbage and Korean radishes, along with various seasonings. The fermentation process involves lactic acid bacteria, which gives kimchi its distinct tangy flavour.

Benefits of Kimchi Salad

Probiotics for Gut Health

​Rich in Vitamins and Nutrients

​Potential Anti-Inflammatory Effects

​Weight Management

​Blood Sugar Regulation

Indian fermented foods

​Dosa and Idli Batter

​Fermented Rice

​Dhokla

​Kanji

​Shingju

​Sandhgi

Recipes for Indian Fermented Foods

Dosa and Idli Batter

Ingredients:

2 cups parboiled rice

1 cup urad dal (black gram)

1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)

Salt to taste

Method: Rinse the rice and urad dal separately under cold water. Soak the rice and fenugreek seeds (if using) together in a bowl with enough water for about 6-8 hours. Soak the urad dal in a separate bowl with enough water for about 6-8 hours. Drain the soaked rice and grind it into a smooth batter using a little water. The consistency should be like pancake batter. Similarly, grind the soaked urad dal into a smooth and fluffy batter. Add water as needed. Mix the rice and urad dal batters together. Add salt and mix well.

Leave the batter to ferment in a warm place for about 8-12 hours or overnight. The fermentation time may vary based on the climate. Heat a non-stick or cast-iron skillet. Once hot, pour a ladleful of batter onto the centre. Spread the batter in a circular motion to form a thin pancake. Drizzle oil around the edges and cook until the dosa becomes golden brown. Fold or roll it and serve with chutney or sambar. Grease the idli moulds with oil. Pour the batter into the moulds and steam for about 10-12 minutes until the idlis are cooked. Serve with coconut chutney or sambar.

Fermented Rice

Ingredients:

Cooked rice (leftover rice works well)

Method:

Rinse the cooked rice under cold water. Place the rice in a bowl and add enough water to cover it. Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave it to ferment overnight or for around 8-12 hours. Once fermented, the rice is ready to be consumed. It has a slightly tangy taste due to the fermentation process. It can be eaten as is, or you can mix it with other ingredients to create dishes like “Panta Bhat” in Bengali cuisine, where it’s soaked in water and eaten during New Year celebrations.

Dhokla

Ingredients:

1 cup gram flour (besan)

1 cup yogurt

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon ginger-green chili paste

1 tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

A pinch of asafoetida (hing)

1 teaspoon fruit salt (eno)

Salt to taste

Fresh coriander leaves for garnish

Method:

In a mixing bowl, combine gram flour, yogurt, turmeric powder, ginger-green chili paste, and salt. Mix well to form a smooth batter. Add water if needed to achieve a pouring consistency. Allow the batter to ferment for 4-6 hours or overnight. The fermentation process will make the batter light and fluffy.

Grease a steamer plate or thali with oil. Just before steaming, add fruit salt (Eno) to the batter and mix well. Pour the batter into the greased plate and steam for approximately 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. In a small pan, heat oil. Add mustard seeds and asafoetida. Once the mustard seeds splutter, pour this tempering over the steamed dhokla. Allow the dhokla to cool a bit, then cut it into squares or diamond shapes. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with mint chutney.

Kanji

Ingredients:

2-3 medium-sized purple carrots, julienned

2 tablespoons mustard seeds

1-2 teaspoons red chili powder (adjust to taste)

1-2 teaspoons salt (adjust to taste)

Water

Method:

Wash and peel the purple carrots. Cut them into thin strips or julienne. In a large glass jar, combine the julienned carrots, mustard seeds, red chili powder, and salt. Fill the jar with enough water to cover the carrots completely. Seal the jar tightly with a lid. Place the jar in a warm spot and allow it to ferment for 3-4 days. You can place it in direct sunlight or in a warm corner of the kitchen. After fermentation, the kanji will have a tangy and spicy flavour. Serve it chilled and enjoy it as a refreshing and probiotic-rich beverage.

Conclusion

It’s difficult not to be amazed by the pure joy that Kimchi Salad and other Indian fermented foods bring to our plates and the silent symphony they create within our bodies. It’s an homage to the age-old customs that have been whispering health secrets for centuries, more than just a gastronomic adventure.

Thus, the next time you enjoy the crunch of a pickle or the tang of yoghurt, keep in mind that you’re starting a path towards digestive harmony, immune system resilience, and general vigour, not just delighting your taste senses.   Hope you enjoy not just the flavour but also the wisdom that has been passed down from centuries past as you include these culinary jewels into your regular meals.

So let’s celebrate the delight of fermentation—a time-honored practice that feeds both our bodies and our ties to the rich history of food culture. May you take a minute with every meal to appreciate the harmonious blend of tastes and health benefits, and in doing so, accept the kind gift of wellbeing that fermented foods kindly provide. We toast to good health and the countless miracles that occur when we experience the glories of fermentation.

 

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