Koji, kimchi and co. are making fermentation a trend again because of their health-promoting properties
Author: Sidney Kadziolka
Fermenting - more than just preserving
Meanwhile, fermentation has emerged as the most important and exciting cooking trend developed. The history, which developed over 2500 years ago in ancient China and Japan, is now considered the basis of a green processing technology that sets new standards. The process not only ensures that the products have a longer shelf life, but also gives them a unique taste. Rather, fermentation is coming back into fashion because of its health-promoting properties.
How fermentation prevents food waste
Excess food is used to create more climate-friendly and recyclable and in some cases "new" products. Since agriculture as we know it is only lucrative in large quantities, a third of which currently ends up in landfill worldwide. This is a ray of hope in terms of our food waste, because worldwide 30% of the food produced simply ends up as landfill. This accounts for a full eight percent of global greenhouse gases.
The fermentation means: the transformation of food thanks to microorganisms, such as moulds, yeasts or bacteria. It is also interesting that they inevitably affect the taste of the end product. This depends on external conditions such as climate and storage. Comparable to the production and storage of a bottle of wine.
There are countless varieties of A. oryzae, all of which have a different character with their typical properties. Thus, depending on the type of mold and depending on the fermented product, endless new flavors and products are created.
This results in many advantages, which do not only relate to the environment. Rather, food preservation also has positive effects on our health. Because it prevents, among other things, the growth of germs, viruses and other pathogens that can cause diseases.
Worth knowing: 75% of the food produced worldwide comes from just 12 plant and 5 animal species. In addition, rice, corn and wheat make up 60% of the human diet. Nevertheless, there are still more than 20.000 edible plant species that are nutritious and better adapted to changing climatic conditions.
Variety of flavors through fermentation
With the fermentation you have the possibility to give the plants different tastes and new structures, so new products can be developed. We owe this to the microorganisms, whereby the storage time and place are decisive. Example: the longer fermented vegetables are stored, the more acidic they become. The temperature also affects the taste. That means there are many alternatives and tastes that are still unknown to us, which ensure more variety.
"Cake" from moldy grain - koji
An example is koji: this is rice or barley that is colonized with Aspergillus oryzae - a type of mold. Which is used in fermentation. The process involves storing the rice in a moist, warm place for a few days until every grain of rice is covered in mushrooms. Meanwhile, it creates enzymes that later break down proteins and carbohydrates into more easily digestible nutrients.
Koji is the secret of many fermented foods, such as shoyu, miso, rice vinegar, sake, and amazake.
Healthy Benefits Of Fermented Foods:
The fermented products not only taste different, they are even healthy because:
- they are a great source of probiotic bacteria - these are part of our own gut flora and help improve gut health and nutrient absorption.
- they ensure easier digestibility, since the cell structures are already broken up during the fermentation process - meaning they are already pre-digested, so to speak
- it avoids weight gain as they reduce fat accumulation as well as high blood sugar levels
- it can fight fatigue because the digestive enzymes "amylase" and "protease" break down carbohydrates and convert them into energy
- they are rich in vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and vitamin B6
Most people are not even aware that fermentation plays a role in our everyday lives. Because without them there would be no beer, wine, schnapps, pickled vegetables, soy sauces, bread or parmesan, for example. However, the process is useful for almost all foods. Sauces, syrups or jams can be prepared from excess fruit or vegetables.
However, it costs producers enormous amounts of resources to pass on the unused food. Because of this, there are companies that want to spread the necessary know-how and show the big companies how to ferment their waste independently. For example, farmers who have excess cabbage and onions now produce sauerkraut or paste, while vineyard owners turn excess grapes into a syrup fermented with honey. Reduce energy consumption by industrially fermenting raw materials and thus skipping some energy-intensive steps. In addition, the fermented products are said to have a shelf life of between three and five years.
The top 5 fermented foods
A kind of soft drink made from a mixture of bacteria and yeast, fermented and sweetened tea. Also called "Scoby", translated from English: Symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. During fermentation, the yeasts metabolize the sugar into carbonic acid and alcohol. Many enzymes, vitamins and acids are produced during this process, which sometimes takes place simultaneously. Depending on the duration of the fermentation (5 to 21 days), the drink is more acidic and more vinegary. Kombucha has long since found a place in our supermarkets, but it is always pasteurized and sweetened and has little in common with the actual drink.
This is a traditional dish from Indonesia. It is a great source of protein and is a great substitute for meat. Due to its nutty taste and its fungal spores, which ensure a firm mass and a good bite. Rather, it is also great for marinating and smoking. The first peeled and then cooked soybeans are treated with a mold and then fermented for up to 48 hours.
The Korean dish is a way of preparing vegetables to ferment them and make them last longer. Chinese cabbage is traditionally used for this, but works just as well with many other types of vegetables such as cucumber or radish. It is easily digestible, low in calories and has a high water content as well as many vitamins. Kimchi is very easy to make at home.
Natto is a common dish in modern cuisine. Despite its consistency and taste, which takes some getting used to, the traditional Japanese dish contains valuable ingredients that promote health and prevent diseases. For the production, soybeans are boiled and then treated with a bacterium. It is then fermented for up to 24 hours, giving it its unique structure.
Miso tastes extremely salty and spicy (umami) by nature. The fermented paste is often found in the Japanese miso soup we are familiar with. But it can also add a unique flavor to salad dressings, sauces, marinades, baked tofu or vegetable dishes. Fermentation also produces a large number of enzymes and probiotics and therefore promotes digestion. It is important that you never bring the miso soup to a boil, otherwise the healthy bacteria will be killed.
In summary, all fermented products are not only health-promoting but also good for our environment, because products are made more durable. In addition, countless new flavors are created that give our food a new touch. What is much more interesting, however, is that the products are very easy to make yourself.