Monday, June 6, 2016

Stay Cultured!

Revival of fermentation and how India is catching up.....
              World over, the phenomenon of fermentation and preserving food by bacterial action is both an ancient art and a hot new trend. Indian chefs are delving deep into the science of bacterial action on food and discovering the beauty of the concept.What we are also discovering is that inducing culture into food and then controlling it is not inherently built in our culture. 
              Fermentation for leavening without addition of any culture is often used in the south for idlis, dosas and vadas, but fermentation has never been seen in our culture as a method of preservation, one definite reason being the hot and humid climate which makes it difficult to manage and control bacterial action. Even in the west, this whole cultured culture (before getting revived as probiotics) was pretty much a thing of the past, modern methods of food manufacture do not accommodate fermentation as fermentation was never a large scale thing and it is difficult to control, making it impossible for two batches to taste the same. So standardisation methods such as pickling with vinegar instead of salt were introduced.   
             Canning and pasteurisation became the new science and hygiene became prima facie. Food became transportable and with amazingly long shelf life, but these modern versions of pickles, sauerkraut and such lacked the vitamins and enzymes that natural fermentation gives food , in a way modernisation undid thousands of years of tradition in a few decades. Sad as the story is, the happy part is that traditional fermentation is enjoying a revival across the world and India is catching up. Fermented black garlic is now a common sight in fine dine spaces in Mumbai. Probiotics have established themselves as a need and Indian cheese making industry is now dishing out some memorable cheese. 
              Dahi our very own cultured probiotic is being recognised by the world along with other cultured products (with a cult following if I must say ) Kefir, Ayran and Doogh, our acceptance of more cultured products was definitely started by cheese and now the three cornerstones of fermentation (cheese, wine and bread) have become a combination of common gastronomic parlance. Most bacterial cultures and starter kits are now available online, do order them see the instructions (even if you don’t follow them ) and make your food alive in the literal sense. Stay Cultured!
 

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