Long before probiotics hit the mainstream food scene and solidified themselves as the trending ingredients in the microbial sphere, people all over the world were using, and loving, fermented foods.
Originally, fermented foods were valued as a preservation method rather than for their health benefits and taste, but these days cultures across the globe appreciate them for much more.
The health benefits you stand to receive by incorporating fermented foods into your diet are many — not only do fermented foods improve the variety of flora living in your gut, which further bolsters gut health, but they are powerful chelators, and help dispense of toxins in your body.
We here at One Green Planet love fermented foods, and to show our appreciation for them, we’re taking you on a mini-tour of five different fermented foods found in different regions of Asia. Check them out below!
Miso, which is a Japanese word that translates to “fermented beans”, is a traditional Japanese seasoning that is produced by fermenting rice, barley, and soybeans with salt and a fungus known as kōjikin. Miso usually comes in the form of a thick paste and is often made from fermented soybeans.
The taste and color of miso can vary depending on your specific miso’s fermentation process; however, a good rule of thumb is that the lighter your miso, the more mellow in flavor it will taste.
Learn how to make the popular Miso Soup in 10 Minutes, or try out this recipe for Miso Turmeric Ginger Dressing. We also suggest throwing a pat of miso in one of your vegan cheese recipes to amp up the umami flavor, like this one for Sharp Cheddar Cheeze.
Natto, a dish of fermented soybeans, is a staple breakfast food in Japan. While natto is supremely nutritious, yielding 31 grams of protein per cup, it is also a fairly polarizing ingredient, due to its strong smell and unique texture. Due to fermentation, natto is coated in a stringy, sticky matter, which can put some first-time natto triers off. Don’t be dissuaded, though — try it for yourself to decide!
Typically, natto is eaten with a serving of white rice, making it a filling, high-protein breakfast, but we also suggest trying it over avocado toast! If you’re feeling adventurous, the recipe for this Soba Noodle Bowl With Fermented Beans and Shiitake pictured above is a great way to introduce yourself to the wonders of natto, too.
Chinese Sauerkraut has been historically used as a digestive remedy, healer, and immune system booster. Made from fermented cabbage (which provides loads of B vitamins for good gut health and natural prebiotics), sauerkraut tastes like slightly cooked, tangy and sour cabbage, and makes a great garnish for a variety of different foods!
You can learn How to Make Raw Sauerkraut and then begin incorporating it into your favorite meals. We love this recipe for Chickpea Sauerkraut Salad Wraps, as well as this one for a Roasted Broccoli and Sauerkraut Quesadilla.
Fermented black soybeans (also called Douchi, or Tochi) are a flavoring most popular in the cuisine of China, are made from soybeans that have been dried and then fermented more traditionally with salt, although wine, ginger, chili, and other spices are sometimes added. Douchi are most commonly used to make black bean sauce dishes in China.
Kimchi is a Korean condiment that is similar to sauerkraut, in that it is usually made from cabbage (though other vegetables may be used) and is fermented over a period of time. Kimchi is higher in probiotics than sauerkraut, so if you love spicy foods, now might be the time to give kimchi a try.
Kimchi is typically fermented with ingredients like red peppers, onions, scallions, garlic, and salt. You can find it in most stores now, but it is also easy to make at home. Read Want to Make Kimchi? Don’t Miss These 5 Tips and then learn How to Make Your Own Kimchi to get started. Then whip up these Miso Kimchi Nachos With Cashew Cheese, which are a great combination of that classic cheesy taste spiced up with some favorite fermented foods.
Make sure to check out these 15 Gut-Healthy Vegan Recipes Featuring Kimchi, too!
Gochujang is a bright and spicy red chili paste made from red chilis, fermented soy beans, glutinous rice (also known as sticky rice), salt, and sometimes sweeteners that is used very similarly to African harissa. Gochujang is considered one of the backbone ingredients of Korean cooking, and is a definite must-try for those of you who crave the spicy flavors of Koren cuisine.
Often, gochujang comes in a plastic red tub or tube — you might be able to find it in the international aisle of your local grocery store. It is best used to enhance flavors of sauces, marinades, and broths. Try this healthier meat-free Bangin’ Korean Bibimbap that replaces meat with marinated Shiitake mushrooms, or this No-Dak-Doritang, which leaves out the chicken and adds mushrooms and cauliflower instead and is delicious!
For more international food ideas, Explore the World of Sweets With 15 International Vegan Desserts, or check out our American Fusion page.
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!
Lead image source: Bangin’ Korean Bibimbap