What is Fermentation: Fermented Food

by dassana amit updated May 24, 2013

We all use fermented food products. Yet some of us don’t know what is fermentation or what does it constitute of. So here is a small post on fermentation.

In food processing fermentation typically refers to the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using yeasts, bacteria, or a combination of both under anaerobic conditions. A more straight definition of fermentation is the chemical conversion of sugars into ethanol.

Fermentation means that the action of the microorganisms is desirable, and the process is used to produce alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer, and cider. Fermentation is also used in preservation techniques to create lactic acid in sour foods such as dry sausages, khimchi and yoghurt, or vinegar (acetic acid) for use in pickling foods.

The primary benefit of fermentation is the conversion of sugars and other carbohydrates, e.g., converting juice into wine, grains into beer, carbohydrates into carbon dioxide to leaven bread, and sugars in vegetables into preservative organic acids.

In India, we use a lot of fermented foods like pickles, yoghurt, idli, dosa, dhokla and carrot kanji (fermented drink made with carrots). Pickling of mango, lime and other vegetables is a very common practice in every indian household. There are various kinds of pickles that are made usually in the summers and then these pickles are consumed for a year or more than a year. Sweet, sour as well as spicy pickles are made. e.g. sweet and sour mango pickle.

Idli and Dosa is a fermented breakfast south indian snack that is popular all over the world. Fermentation plays a vital role in making a good idli or dosa.

Food fermentation has been said to serve five main purposes:

  • it reduces the cooking time.
  • detoxification during food-fermentation processing.
  • dietary enrichment due to development of a diversity of aromas, flavors, and textures in food substrates.
  • biological enrichment of food substrates with protein, vitamins, essential fatty acids and essential amino acids.
  • preservation of substantial amounts of food through acetic acid, lactic acid, alcohol and alkaline fermentations.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

enkoli Hranglung February 15, 2014 1

It was totally Helpful for my assignmnt……


Vibha August 19, 2013 2

Hi Dassana

I have recently started following your blog and love every bit of it. Just cant get enough of it. Now i have few questions about fermentation. I know that fermentation usually take place either naturally or using yeast. But i really dont understand the functions of fruit salt (eno) , baking powder, baking soda and sodium bicarb etc etc. what is the differnce between these four powders? I live in China…eno is not widely available… Can i use baking powder instead of eno while making dhoklas n all. And also if u cud let me know if there are any health issues while using any of these powders?


dassana August 19, 2013 3

thanks vibha. all of them function differently and all of them are different ingredients. they are basically used for leavening. yeast is used in breads and baking powder or soda are used in cakes and cookies.

eno is fruit salt – reacts with water and makes the dhokla batter fluffy, porous
baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate – when moistened releases carbon dioxide which helps in rising of baked stuff.
baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate, an acidifying agent (cream of tartar), and also a drying agent (usually starch). same function as baking soda. however baking soda is more strong.
yeast are microorganisms which are dormant but become active in suitable conditions – usually avoided if one follows a satvik diet.

you can use either baking soda instead of eno while making dhokla. there are no health issues. but when buying baking powder, check for aluminium free baking powder. with baking soda added to vegetable dishes, the nutrients are lost to some extent in the vegetables.

hope this helps.


Ranjitha Deepesh June 20, 2012 4

That was good useful info… thank u very much.. btw.. nice recipes nd pictures too :))))))


dassana June 20, 2012 5

thanks ranjitha. will visit your blog too.