This post is to hero our favourite ingredient KINEMA. A category of fermented food typically made from soybeans, which are indigenous to the cuisines of East, South and Southeast Asia. The pastes are usually salty and savoury are used as a condiment to flavour foods such as stir-fries, stews, and soups. The colours of such pastes range from light tan to reddish brown and dark brown. The differences in colour are due to different production methods, such as the conditions of fermentation, the addition of wheat flour, pulverized mantou, rice, or sugar and the presence of different microflora, such as bacteria or molds used in their production, as well as whether the soybeans are roasted (as in chunjang) or aged (as in tauco) before being ground.
Fermented bean pastes are sometimes the starting material used in producing soy sauces, such as tamari, or an additional product created from the same fermented mass.Due to the protein content of the beans, the fermentation process releases a large amount of free amino acids, which when combined with the large amounts of salt used in its production, produces a highly umami product.In Japan , they are known as Natto,Tempeh or Misoo, Koreans call it Doenjang or more stronger is called Cheonggukjang, Douchi in Chinese. Thais call it Dtow jiow. Popularly called Axone in the Northeast India is a more pungent and funkier version of our kinema .
Here in our Himalayan region, two varieties of soyabeans or locally called Bhatmas, are grown. My late Grandmother would say that the best Kinema is usually made with the black soyabean variety. Marcha,a locally made yeast, is used as the source of fermentation bacteria. Boiled soybeans are mixed with marcha and are packed on a Nebarra ko patha( wild fig’s leaves ) while they are still warm and kept at 40 °C for approximately two days. Spore-forming Bacillus species, especially Bacillus subtilis, present in the marcha act as starter culture for the fermentation resulting in a sticky ,goey texture and a pungent smell ofcourse 😄. Consumption of Fermented soyabean has been associated with beneficial stimulation of immune system but I must say it is an acquired taste and most of us who have studied in the other cities of India have our own stories to tell while preparing this delicacy and has also inspired filmmaker Nicholas Kharkongor to make a movie titled AXONE, which is a highly awaited film to watch which premieres next week on Netflix.
Here I prepared a dish called Kinema Anda Curry I learnt from Tshering Yangchen, a lawyer turned Chef .She is very passionate about cooking and has played an important role in helping food lovers to prepare simple home cooked food with basic ingredients you have in your house ,I started following her on Instagram @_yangloo during the lockdown and I must say she is doing an amazing job in inspiring young people to prepare simple yet delicious homemade food. Thank you for this recipe because I had never tried this version but it is a big favourite in our house now.
Plating/cooking this dish in our Donabe (a lidded cooking clay pot with a thick bottom) we custom-made for an upcoming Japanese restaurant in town for their dish, Nabemono ,glazed with one of our favourite glaze at the studio, we call Ecru Brown.