Fermented foods are becoming a bigger trend thanks to their unique flavor, the uptick in Asian cuisine’s, and their benefits. Fermentation in food processing is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using yeasts, bacteria or both under anaerobic conditions. That’s just a fancy way of saying letting vegetables steep until their sugars and carbs transition into bacteria-boosting agents.
What’s in a craze?
Fermented foods are not just pickles and beer, they include all types of vegetables, teas, and yogurts. Looking at the menu penetration for greek yogurt and pickled vegetables we see triple digit growth over the past four years, with the highest growth in the fine dining sector.
But what’s driving the craze? One theory is the giant leap that yogurt, and by extension greek yogurt, has taken in the breakfast arena. This has opened up the flood gates of probiotic rich foods and people are now more willing to try kombucha tea or seed cheese because of it.
Another theory is the recent rise in Asian cuisines. Things like kimchi and miso are appearing on more shelves and menus as consumers have become more used to these flavor profiles, and the fermented benefits of these foods are easy to make claims on, catching consumer’s eyes and palettes.
Benefits of fermented foods
The big advantage of fermented foods comes from the probiotics that naturally occur during the fermentation process. These little microorganisms have a plethora of benefits that target your digestive system. Along with a gut, probiotics can assist in weight-loss, better skin, and boost immunity.
With the correct balance of bacteria and enzymes in your digestive system, you can now absorb more of the nutrients from food. Most fermented foods are already vegetables like beets, pickles or even salsa. These veggies will be more completely absorbed along with all other foods.
Additionally, fermented foods retain their nutrients for a longer time than traditional canning. Think of it this way, a fermented green bean will have more nutrients and be better for you for a longer period of time than a canned bean. Using fermented beans in your next recipe could add more than just taste to that meal.
As stated earlier fermented foods keep longer, meaning you can make larger amounts and enjoy them for an extended period of time. Less food waste means more money in your wallet. Fermenting is an inexpensive process. The components that go into fermenting or pickling are very small compared to other trends right now, like high protein, snacks, etc.
Easily include more fermented foods
A fermented food that is growing in popularity is kimchi. Kimchi is the product of lacto fermentation, typically of the following ingredients: Salted white cabbage, and the Kimchi “brine”, which is chili powder, garlic, spring onion, Korean radish, ginger, and fish sauce. This mixture can be fermented from anywhere between several months to several years depending on tradition. Kimchi is usually served alongside an assortment of Korean pickles, and other fermented vegetable varieties as a garnish for such traditional dishes as Korean Bibimbap. Kimchi can be used as a topping on almost anything, from pizzas, to burgers, to tacos.
Another growing flavor in the fermented category is Gochujang. It too is a product of lacto fermentation which is typically made of the following ingredients: Red chili, powdered glutenous rice, malted barley, flour, soy beans, and salt. Gochujang is very similar to Miso (another fermented soybean product) in that it has the sweet umami characteristics, but with a spicy roasted chili flavor backbone. This ingredient is growing with the same popularity that Sriracha saw not too long ago. Gochujang is a spicy condiment that can be mixed into soups, or even with honey to make a nice glaze for seared duck breast.
Kombucha Tea is showing up more and more at retail outlets. Keeping a six pack around has never been easier and it pairs well with any meal you would typically have a beer with.