Off-the-Eaten Path Food Experience in Japan. "Meet the People and Places behind your Plates! "

Sunday 3 January 2016

Learn the art of washoku through fermentation (4) Japanese Fermentation

Japanese Fermentation 

Compared to Europe and Central Asia with dry climate, Japan’s rich water resources and moistly climate have developed culture of fermentation over centuries. It is said that narezushi, a fermented fish product, preserved by fermented rice, was introduced from south China along with rice cultivation in Yayoi period (BC 4th century – AD 3rd century).

The oldest record of fermented food in Japan dates back to Nara period (729-749), various recipes of fermented foods such as vinegar pickle and vegetables pickled in sake lee were recorded in Engishiki, an ancient book for codes and procedures on national rites and prayers, written in Heian period(794~1185). 

Biologically, fermentation is a microbial metabolic process that releases energy, organic acids, gases or alchol by the degradation of a sugar or other organic nutrients, which is generally beneficial for human beings.

To enhance preservability, there are several methods; 1) adjust pH, 2) alcohol, 3) concentrate osmotic pressure by salt or sugar, 4) dried, and 5) fermentation.

Sake, miso, soy sauce, vinegar, mirin are foundations of japanese cuisine. All are made from koji malt.

 Merits of fermentation 

● Enhance Preservability
● Dissolve and Enrich nutrients
● Become tasty!

 Types of fermentation

1. Bacteria

Lacto Bacillus
One of lactic acid bacteria, producing lactic acid by dissolving sugar. It lowers pH and improves presservability. More than 350 species were found, and each produces different substances. Yogurt, cheese, pickles, miso, narazushi are made from this bacteria.

Acetic acid bacteria
It produces acetic acid from ethanol in aerobic condition. Venegar is a key product of this bacteria. A kind of acetic acid bacteria also produces cellulosic fibers, and Nata de koko, crème of coconuts is also made by using this sysbiosis.

Bacillus Natto
One of Bacillus subtilis bacteria, commonly exists in soil, plants, and animal stomach and intestine, especially found on rice straw. It produces natto kinase, which dissolves protein. The bacteria can be survived in both low and high heat, regardless of pH.

 2. Fungus

Saccharomyces (Kobo)
Yeast in English. Approximately 500 species are found, mainly in fruits, trees, and nectors. miso, narazushi are made from this bacteria.

Aspergillus Koji
Most popular fermentation microorganism in Japan, known as “National Fungi”. It dissolves carbohydrate to saccharify, and produces umami tastes. miso, narazushi are made from this bacteria.

A.oryzea    : miso, sake
A.sojae      : soy sauce
A.glaucus  : dried bonito flake

Largely found on organic substrates, such as mature fruits and vegetables. Indonesian tempe is made from this fungi, and nowadays, it’s getting popular in Japan as well.