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5 things you need to know about fermentation

Prashuram Pathak

InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort head chef Parashuram Pathak

Spice Magazine caught up with InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort head chef Parashuram Pathak about his passion for fermented foods.

Pathak, who worked at Noma in Copenhagen, said, “Fermented foods are not exactly human inventions. We have certainly observed and learned how to harness the power of fermenting – this is what opens our minds to endless possibilities. To see what food can provide for us in ways that we have never before ventured into. It’s not a movement; it’s a way of life.”

Read on for the five things you need to know about this ancient technique:

1. What exactly is fermentation?
Fermentation is the transformation of food by various bacteria, fungi and the enzymes they produce. The power of fermentation is learning how to harness the bio make-up of the ingredient and transforming it to produce anything from alcohol, to making it less toxic, more digestible, infusing its flavour or learning to preserve it. While the practice is as old as time, the skill and chemical knowledge required to deliver world-class fermented food has meant a slower evolution in many realms of the world.

2. Why is eating fermented foods good for you?
Fermented foods are highly nutritious and digestible. The fermentation process can enhance and eliminate certain nutrients, making these more bio-available by removing toxins. It’s quite empowering. For example, fermenting with live lactic-acid-producing bacteria intact is especially supportive of digestive health, immune function and general wellbeing.

3. How do you use fermented foods in your menus?
We had a young team of chefs who had just started after I returned from Noma in August 2015. It meant I had to quickly assemble the required equipment, resources and training so they could understand the concept of fermentation and its power to transform The Fireplace. My team started fermenting quine, which is now in season. There’s also koji, a bare ingredient of cooked rice that is inoculated through fermentation and a host of salt infusion which can take up to three months to develop. It’s the flavour and the introduction of new concepts which result in an exciting layer of culinary experience, not just for my team but for our guests.

4. Can you ferment foods at home?
Absolutely. People have been practising fermentation techniques for thousands of years. While the technique itself has been floating kitchens for centuries, it’s critical to research and monitor for the correct temperatures and conditions, as well as ensuring the ingredients you’re using are appropriate for optimal fermentation.

5. What are some of the more unusual things you can create?
We recently introduced our green strawberry for three months in the cool-room with iodine free salt. After dehydration and fermentation, the grated dried green strawberry is added to our seafood dishes for an amazing burst of hidden sweetness, slight bitterness and saltiness for a truly unique seasoning. Experimenting with seasonal and non-seasonal fruits and vegetable, for example unripe plum and unripe peach, produces drastic changes in flavours and allows the team to match the profile of unforeseen menus.

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