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Unlike canning or dehydrating, fermentation is the only way of preserving foods for long periods of time that adds additional health benefits. How you ask? Well, one of the most common types of fermentation, lacto-fermentation, occurs when micro-organisms break down naturally occurring sugars in food to create lactic acid. This acid acts a natural preservative and makes food easier to digest. It also increases the amount of absorbable vitamins, promotes beneficial bacteria growth in our bodies and produces the tangy & tasty flavor we associate with fermented foods. You can find recipes celebrating foods created by this natural process in almost every restaurant around the world! The questions is… are you capitalizing on this nutritious and delicious addition to your meals? Find out what you’re missing by taking a look at my fermented food checklist (complete with recipes).
Veggies & Fruits
Jars of pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi are a refrigerator staple in most houses and for good reason. While nothing quite matches the bite of pickled cucumbers and cabbage, there are lots of other fermented veggies (and fruits) that can pack a punch.
Breakfast: Toss some fermented berries into a smoothie or puree them down into a tart sauce to pour over waffles.
Lunch: Up your burger game by topping it with some flavorful fermented ketchup and adding a side of Atchara, pickled green papaya.
Dinner: Make your version of a Burmese fermented tea leaf salad and pair it with Kombucha, made from fermented tea and flavored fruit, for a guilt-free and effervescent way to end your day.
You may be surprised to find out that you already eat dishes that consist of fermented beans on a regular basis. Thanks to soy sauce, tamari, tempeh and more, cultured legumes have always had a place at our dinner table.
Breakfast: Start off on the day right with a traditional Indian Dosa, a thin crepe-like pancake made from fermented lentils, and top it off with tempeh coconut curry.
Lunch: For a hearty lunch, grab a plate of the Chinese speciality, Mapo Tofu, created with Doubanjian (chile bean paste).
Dinner: Warm up on a chilly night with a bowl of Miso soup, a Japanese dish made from a paste of fermented soybeans.
Dairy & Meat
Fermented dairy, whether it’s cheese, yogurt or sour cream, most likely makes it to one of your meals, if not all. But have you tried eating fermented meat? Adding some fermented animal-derived recipes can help round out your meals.
Breakfast: You can’t go wrong with a glass of Kefir, fermented yogurt drink usually flavored with fruit, or the popular Colombian drink Kumis.
Lunch: Put together a sandwich with fresh salt-cured corned beef for a quick and delicious lunch.
Dinner: Drizzling Nước Chấm fish sauce over your protein at dinner, made from pressed fermented anchovies, can bring a unique richness to your meal. For dessert, don’t pass up on homemade crème fraîche over fruit.
If you find it hard to think of fermented grains off the top of your head, start at the bread aisle! Sourdough, as the name implies, starts from fermented dough and is then baked. But Sourdough just scratches the surface for what opportunities lie with fermented grains.
Breakfast: Chow down on some savory Katta Dhokla, a spongy fermented rice cake from India.
Lunch: A perfect to-go lunch, the Bánh cuốn dish is made from a rolled thin sheet of fermented rice batter. For a bubbly drink to go with it, try Russian favorite Kvas, made with rye bread.
Dinner: Prepare some Appam, crepe-like bread made from fermented rice, to accompany a rich stew or sauce. You’d be amiss if you didn’t try Jiu Niang, Chinese sweet rice, for dessert.
Fermented foods can be fun, tasty, and safe to eat year round. Experiment with different fermentation methods and ingredients to find out what works for you. Let us know in the comments if you try out one of these tangy meals or one of your own!