Over the last few years, fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut have been under the spotlight for having high contents of gut-friendly probiotics. It can be theorised that the work-from-home infrastructure has allowed people the time to watch their milk turn to curd or their bread to sourdough. There is also a chance that you've been eating fermented foods your whole life without realising it, especially in the Indian context. Everyday tea-time snacks like dhokla and traditional South Indian staples like idlis, appams and dosas are all examples of fermented foods.
But when it comes to fermented foods there is a vast landscape of food products, beyond what's been trending in popular discourse, and it's well worth exploring. So, we dedicated some time this month to sample and familiarise ourselves with all that's new in this world. Plus, some old-time favourites, because why not, right?
Drinking kefir is a lot like drinking curd from a bottle. Except, the tangy, fermented milk product has a much thinner consistency and is easy to consume. Made with either cow or goat milk, it can be had as a post-workout drink, after a meal or even by itself as a refreshment. For people who are lactose intolerant, the beverage also has dairy-free alternatives, which are made using coconut milk and coconut water.
Most commonly found in Nagaland, axone or fermented soybean is a pungent, dried condiment that has a sharp umami flavour. It starts out mildly sour and evolves to offer a stronger taste as you chew on the fermented beans. The ingredient is typically used to prepare Northeastern staples like curries and stir-fries with meat and a medley of vegetables. There's a whole Netflix original about it too, so we guess that speaks for itself.
With heavy notes of sambal sauce, this variety of tempeh has a dense bite and doesn't need to be cooked at all. It has a sweet-spicy taste and can be eaten on its own, like a snack, or with sticky rice. The best way to enjoy this variety of tempeh is to first start small, with plain tempeh, cook it in flavours of your choice and then graduate to kering.
Another variety of flavoured tempeh, this one is coated in flavours of fresh galangal, lemongrass, Thai red chillies, brown sugar, shallots and tossed garlic. In a way, it's like an Asian curry, but in the form of tempeh. The chunks have notes of kecap manis, and Indonesian sweet soy sauce and again, this one too does not have to be cooked before eating. Enjoy the pre-fried condiment along with your meal or even just a snack.
Since the rediscovery of fermented foods, there has been an uptick in the popularity of kombucha. Now available in most retail stores in packs of fours and sixes, you could say that the fizzy fermented brew seems to be giving its flavoured-soda contemporaries in the market tough competition. We tried the jamun kombucha from COMMBUCHA by MAVI in Mumbai (which also delivers pan India), which comes with chunks of Indian blackberries too and we can safely say that when chilled, it can be just the pick-me-up you're looking for. What more? It's brimming with probiotics that are sure to make your gut happy.
To order, text or call on: COMMBUCHA by MAVI, +91 7777048983 or visit Mavispantry
This fermented cabbage condiment has a pronounced sour flavour and a strong pungent aroma. Store-bought varieties are available, but sauerkraut can also be easily made at home. And while the flavours may be too concentrated for it to be consumed on its own, the vitamin-C-loaded sauerkraut works well when combined with salads or meats. If you ask us, the best way to incorporate this into your diet would be alongside a bowl of soup and toasted bread.
Sonal Ved is the editor at IFN. She is also an author of an award-winning cookbook called Tiffin. She travelled through the first five tastes to be able to tell between a brie and provolone dolce. She can make stellar undhiyu and a green smoothie.
Equipped with a Master’s degree in Journalism, Tarini is forever questioning everything around her. Headstrong and passionate about the art of storytelling, she is up to date with all things travel, food, beauty, and innovation. When she isn’t out reviewing the newest restaurant, you can find her researching the latest skincare trend or curled up with a book and a cuppa in the farthest corner of the room.