India has a rich culinary heritage with a wide range of unique and flavorful dishes. Among these, fermented foods hold a significant place, as they not only add a distinct taste but also come with numerous health benefits. Fermentation is a natural process that uses microorganisms like bacteria and yeast to break down complex molecules in food, producing acids, alcohol, and gases. This process not only preserves the food but also enhances its nutritional value. In this article, we will explore some of India’s traditional fermented foods that have been an integral part of its cuisine for generations.
Some Traditional Indian Fermented Foods
1. Enduri Pitha
This is a traditional Odia dish that you can prepare with fermented rice and coconut. To prepare this dish, you have to ferment the bamboo shoots for several days with mustard oil, spices, and chillies, which gives them a unique spicy and sour flavour.
Khorisa, also known as bamboo shoot pickle, is a popular dish in Assam. In order to make this dish, ferment the bamboo shoots with mustard oil, spices, and chilli. This imparts a distinct sour and spicy flavour.
Handia is a popular drink in Jharkhand and is made by fermenting rice with a traditional yeast culture called ‘launga’. This drink is known for its rich and earthy flavor.
4. Chak Hao Kheer
This Manipuri dessert is made with black rice, which is fermented for several days before cooking. The fermentation process gives the rice a unique purple hue and a nutty flavor.
Pitha is a type of rice cake that is popular in many states across India. The batter is made with fermented rice, coconut, and jaggery, giving it a soft and fluffy texture.
6. Chhena Poda
It is a popular dessert from Odisha. You can prepare it by fermenting cottage cheese, sugar, and semolina. The dish is baked to perfection, further giving it a caramelised crust and a soft, spongy centre.
7. Sol Kadhi
It is a very popular refreshing drink from Maharashtra. You can prepare this drink by fermenting coconut milk and kokum for several hours. The fermentation process gives it a tangy flavor and a vibrant pink color.
Shrikhand is a sweet yogurt-based dessert that is popular in Gujarat and Maharashtra. To make this dish, hang the yoghurt to remove excess water, then flavour it with saffron, sugar, and cardamom
Thepla is a popular flatbread from Gujarat that is made with fermented dough, wheat flour, and spices. The fermentation process gives it a distinct sour flavor and a soft texture.
Pickles are an integral part of Indian cuisine, and there are countless varieties available across the country. Most pickles are made by fermenting vegetables like mango, lemon, and chili in a brine solution. You can also prepare amla and carrot pickles like this.
11. Moru Curry
It is a traditional Kerala dish that you can prepare with fermenting yoghurt, curry, and spices. The fermentation process gives it a tangy flavor and a thick, creamy texture.
12. Kallappam and Appam
These are yet another popular Kerala breakfast dish. You can prepare it with fermented rice and coconut milk. The batter is allowed to ferment overnight, which further contributes to the soft, fluffy texture of the pancakes.
13. Idli and Dosa
Idli and dosa are popular breakfast dishes from South India. You can prepare it with fermented rice and lentil batter. The fermentation process gives them a distinct tangy flavor and a fluffy texture.
Kombucha is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. This health drink is gaining popularity due to its probiotic properties.
Kanji is a traditional Punjabi drink made with fermented black carrots, mustard seeds, and water. This process also gives it a nice tangy and slightly bitter taste, which makes it an excellent drink to aid your digestive system.
16. Sel roti
Sel roti is a traditional Nepali sweet snack made with fermented rice flour and sugar. In order to prepare this dish, you have to pour the batter into circular shapes and deep-fry it until it becomes crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
Dhokla is a popular Gujarati snack that you can prepare by fermenting chickpea flour batter. First, you have to steam the batter, then temper it with mustard seeds, curry leaves, and green chilies to give it a tangy and spicy flavor.
Dahi, also known as yogurt, is a staple in Indian cuisine and is made by fermenting milk with live cultures. It is not only rich in probiotics but is also a good source of calcium and protein.
Gundruk is a fermented leafy vegetable dish from Nepal, made with mustard greens, radish leaves, or spinach. You have to pickle the leaves with salt and spices and leave them to ferment for several days. This helps in giving them a sour and pungent taste.
Hawaijar is a popular fish dish from Manipur which you can prepare by combining small freshwater fish, chili, and bamboo shoots. Several days are spent fermenting fish with bamboo shoots, giving it a strong, pungent taste.
Fermented foods have been a part of India’s culinary heritage for centuries and will continue to be an integral part of its cuisine. The fermentation process not only enhances the flavor and aroma of the food but also increases its nutritional value. From pickles to desserts, there is a wide range of fermented food products to try in India, each with its own unique taste and health benefits. So next time you’re in India, be sure to try some of these delicious and healthy fermented foods.