The wonder of good bacteria

This weekend learn all about the importance of fermented foods with Moina Oberoi, Shonali Sabherwal and Vinita Contractor

Updated - January 31, 2019 09:08 pm IST

Published - January 31, 2019 09:07 pm IST

Nutrition in a jar: (from left to right) Moina Oberoi, Vinita Contractor and Shonali Sabherwal

Nutrition in a jar: (from left to right) Moina Oberoi, Vinita Contractor and Shonali Sabherwal

For Moina Oberoi, experimentation with fermentation was a result of a quest to find the right way to combat an auto immune condition, naturally. “While trying different therapies like Ayurveda and naturotherapy, I realised that they were very focused on gut heath. I had learned about fermented food and probiotic health earlier. Each fermented food has a different strain of probiotics. Not only could I feel the difference in my health, but since I was in the culinary space, it was also very fascinating how fermentation does to the flavour. Be it sauces or pickles, it adds extra flavour,” says Oberoi.

Through her trials, Oberoi first discovered kefir while in the US and later started MO’s Superfoods, which specialises in fermented food space, especially kefir products such as smoothies, and is available at several city outlets.

Food collaborations

Like Oberoi, nutritionist Shonali Sabherwal too is a supporter of fermented foods and specialises in macrobiotics and always speaks for the importance of gut health for overall well-being. The duo conducted their first workshop on fermented foods late last year, and have another planned for this weekend with nutrition coach and chef Vinita Contractor called ‘Fermentation Station’.

“Shonali and Vinita’s philosophy is similar to mine, we focus on gut health. So in this workshop we will include tastings and demos for popular international fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, ginger beer, kefir and tepache, a fermented pineapple drink. Since these are international products we will discuss how you can integrate them in your home kitchen. A lot of active fermented foods are not necessarily Indian, so you need to know how to Indianise them,” says Oberoi.

Desi touch

For example you can add miso paste to dal when it isn’t too hot, or make raita from kefir. If you miss the taste of curd, you can even make a half-and-half raita with both ingredients. Kanji is the only Indian fermented dish included in the workshop, which Sabherwal will elaborate on. The workshop also includes one-on-one sessions where the experts will personally discuss and answer your questions related to wellness and fermentation. We ask Oberoi if ginger beer and tepache are alcoholic drinks and she elaborates, “Every food item that is fermented has small degree of alcohol (a by-product of yeast fermentation), in fact most foods items have alcohol we just don’t realise it. But the level is very low and it doesn’t give you a buzz, so it’s not alcoholic.”

Oberoi draws attention to how probiotics in fermented foods get killed if the temperature goes beyond 38 degrees (hence miso needs to be added to dal at low temperature). But probiotics are just one good aspect of fermentation. The process of fermentation pre-digests the food, making it more bio available for your system, plus it is nutritionally more beneficial, it enhances the natural nutrition value 30%. That’s what makes your dosas and dhoklas healthy, even though they lose their probiotics at high temperatures. Oberoi has also recently introduced kefir-based cream cheese spreads, which have one sixth the calories of a regular cream cheese. In March, Oberoi and Sabherwal will also conduct a three-day outstation workshop at Atali Ganga retreat in Rishikesh centered around gut health and immunity, where Sabherwal will also conduct pranayama and meditation classes.

Fermentation Station will take place on Sunday, February 3 at Flavour Diaries, Khar West from noon to 3 p.m.; ₹2,300 (plus GST); 9820748492 / 9819035604 / 9987192881

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