Does your mouth water at the funky aroma of fish sauce? Does that keilbasa feel incomplete without the tang of sauerkraut? Congrats — you’re in the fermented foodie club.. and you’re in good company.
In recent years, fermented foods have grown in popularity as kim chi, kombucha and kefir have made their way into the zeitgeist, bringing beneficial probiotics along for the ride. Of course, there are many fermented culinary delights that might not be easy to find at your local supermarket — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try them.
Here are 5 unusual fermented foods everyone should taste at least once.
The next time you’re in Turkmenistan or Kazakhstan, enjoy a fizzy glass of chal. Also known as shubat, chal is made by blending fresh and sour camel’s milk, adding a bit of yeast and a touch of alcohol, and letting it ferment in a skin bag or ceramic vessel for several days.
The result? A sparkling, sour and pungent beverage that’s rich in beneficial probiotic bacteria.
Ever had a hankering for hákari? If so, head to Iceland, where this national delicacy is made though a complex process: Sleeper sharks are decapitated, gutted, placed in a shallow hole, covered with gravel, and left to rot for three months. Then the meat is removed, dried and cut into bits.
For Icelanders, bite-size cubes of hákari are a treat. The fermented shark is said to taste (and smell) like ammonia. If rotten shark jerky doesn’t sound appetizing, you’re not alone; Chef Anthony Bourdain included hákarl on his list of least favorite foods.
3. Jiang Dou Fu
Chinese cuisine isn’t known for its inclusion of cheese. Maybe that’s because jiang dou fu adds that rich, paremesan-like hit of umani to any dish. The popular condiment is made from fermented soy bean curd and is found in pantries and eateries across China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.
Jiang dou fu adds a strong, savory flavor that’s almost blue-cheese-like. For a double dose of fermented goodness, look for hong fu ru, or soybean curd brined in fermented red rice yeast.
The culinary traditions of Sudan have long involved fermentation. It’s a great way to store foods; even fresh bones can be fermented. For instance kaidu-digla, or bone bails, are made from bits of vertebrae.
The pieces of sun-dried bone are pounded with stones into a chunky paste. Then it’s all mixed with salt, molded into balls, and left to ferment into a portable, protein-rich food packed with savory flavor.
If you really want to establish your fermenting foodie cred, try kiviak. A delicacy among Greenland’s Inuit people, kiviak consists of hundreds of tiny fermented sea birds. Oh, and did we mention that the fermentation process takes place inside of a disemboweled seal?
After sewing the birds inside the pelt, the whole thing is placed under a heavy stone. (Seam side up, to let any gases escape, of course). After about six months, the kiviak is uncovered, drained, and enjoyed.
Which of these funky, fermented foods is first on your bucket list?