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Traditional fermented foods of Lahaul and Spiti

Indian journal of traditional knowledge February 2007
5 authors, including: CSKHPKV Palampur
Retrieved on: 17 August Z016

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Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge
Vol. 6(1), January 2007. pp. 42-45
Traditional fermented foods of Lahaul and Spiti area of Himachal Pradesh
S S Kanwar, M K Gupta, Chhaya Katoch, Rajeev Kumar & Promila Kanwar*
Departments of Microbiology and *Home Science Extension Education,
CSK Himachal Pradesh Krishi Vishvavidayalaya, Palampur l76()62, Himachal Pradesh
Email: promilak@hillagric.ernet.in
Received 24 July 2006; revised I 0 November 2006

Some traditional fermented foods consumed by people of Lahaul and Spiti area of Himachal Pradesh were explored microbiologically and documented. Chilra, Jhan rhang, Babru, B/iaturu and Seem were the main food products made from cereals. These products were prepared by using traditional / natural inoculum, i.e. khameer/ malera or phab as a starter culture. All the fermented foods were acidic in nature. Microbiological examination of these food products and their source of inoculum revealed the dominance of yeasts mainly from genera Saccharomyces, Debaromyces and Schizosacc

The bacteria were mainly from the genera Lactobacillus, Lacmcoccur,
Key words: Traditional foods, Fennentation, Cereals, Indigenous knowledge, Fennented foods, Lahaul, Spiti, Himachal
IPC Int, Cl.R: A6lK36/00, A0lG1/00, AOIGI7/00, A47Gl9/00, A23Ll/00, A23Ll/06, Cl2G
A food is considered fennented when one or more of its constituents are acted upon by microorganisms to
produce a considerably altered final product acceptable for human use. Fermented foods contribute to about one-third of the diet over worldwide, and cereals are the important substrate for these products in all parts of the world. In tribal areas of Himachal Pradesh, several indigenous fermented foods are consumed and traditionally prepared from a variety of substrates, viz. cereals, pulses, vegetables, etc. without much awareness about the role or involvement of microorganisms.

Inhabitants of Lahaul and Spiti area of Himachal Pradesh as a part of their routine diet extensively consume some of these indigenous products having cereals as the main substrate. These products are primarily restricted to households and are prepared according to the traditional methods using simple equipments, under natural conditions with defined undefined microflora from the staple and surroundings. Therefore, it was essential to document these products and to explore the specific microflora associated with these products to evaluate their quality and consistency.


Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh was  selected as the main study area for traditional
fermented foods. Indigenous knowledge of these products was documented using Participatory Rural
Appraisal (PRA) Technique, which consisted of discussion with key informants and focused group
discussion with the groups chosen randomly from different residential areas of Lahaul and Spiti}. The
study was conducted in Hinsa, Chimrit, Tamlu, Khanjar, Karpat and Jundla villages of Lahaul, and
Hansa and Lari villages of Spiti. Samples of each product along with their source of inoculum were collected from the above-mentioned areas in sterilized containers/vials for processing. pH of each sample before fermentation and after fermentation was determined by using Cyberscan digital pI—I meter. To study the microbial diversity, collected samples of each product were processed on selective media, viz. Potato dextrose agar for yeasts and molds; MRS agar for Lactobacillus; Acetobacter isolation agar for Acetobacter, and Nutrient agar for other general type of bacteria. The colonies of each type were selected and purified by culturing them on their respective selective media and maintained at 4°C in refrigerator. Each purified yeast isolate was then identified on the basis of morphological and biochemical characteristics“. The bacterial isolates were identified on the basis of morphological and Fig. 1 Crop of Buckwheat Fig. 2 Traditional vessel used for Fig. 3 Chilra the preparation of Chilra biochemical characteristics“. Each identified isolatewas then stocked on its respective soft agar in small
screw- capped vial.

Results and discussion

Traditional fermented food products documented from Lahaul and Spiti area of Himachal Pradesh
(Table 1) are mainly prepared from cereals. Some of them, viz. Chilra and Bhaturu are frequently
consumed and prepared by using natural, source of inoculum, viz. Khameer / malera which is prepared
by the principle of inoculum enrichment by natural selection as commonly seen in sour dough process”.
This inoculum is generally prepared on the basis of requirement at the home level and cannot be stored
for longer duration as is observed in case of commercially available inoculum like phab, used in
the preparation of Jhan chang, a product mainly prepared in winter months by maintaining the
temperature artificially.

However, Babru and Seera are not inoculated with any prepared inoculum and are achieved only through the microorganisms present as staple and surroundings. Seasonal variation in the production of these documented fermented foods was also noticed. Since the ambient temperature in winter season is very low (up to -15°C), that‘s why most of the products are reported to be prepared in the summer season, when the temperature is in the mesophillic range. These observations are in concurrence with the earlier observations reported for other indigenous fennented foods of Indiam“. Chilra is the most preferred product followed by Bhatum and Jhanchang.

However, Babru and Seem are reported to be prepared occasionally / rarely. Chilra is preferred due to its easy digestibility, better taste & flavour and nutritional benefits, whereas Jhan chang is preferred due to its alcoholic taste and flavour. People of the area consider it a very nutritional stuff especially in winter months. All these reasons for preferences are based on people’s opinion and not on the basis of any scientific  analytical data. Food samples procured from the study area were examined for their initial pH (pH before
fermentation), which was in the range of 5.8 to 6.4, and final pH (pH after fermentation), which was in the range of 2.9 to 3.6. Reduction in pH during natural fermentation of indigenous food products is a well
established phenomenamu. Not only that, even the appropriate starters has been shown to reduce the pH,
and thereby increase titrable acidity and overall acceptability of the product“. The low pH of the product ensures longer shelf life and discourages the growth of undesirable bacterial contaminants”.

Microbiological examination of these fermented
products as well as their source of inoculum revealed
the dominance of yeasts mainly from genera
Saccharomyces, Debaromyces and Schiz0sacchar0-
myces (Table 2). However, bacteria were primarily
from genera Lactobacillus, Leuconstoc and Lacto-
coccus (Table 3).
Two isolates observed in the present study could
not be identified due to unusual pattem of
biochemical characteristics. As evident from the
results, lactic acid bacteria and yeasts were the
predominating microorganisms in these fermented
foods, because they can survive and tolerate acid
conditions very well and are mainly responsible for
acid and gas productionl. The reduction in final pH
values of these fermented products is also a reflection
of growth of lactic acid bacteria and thereby
production of organic acid(s), which impart them an
edge to compete with other contaminants]6″7. Another
important feature of these bacteria is their ability to
produce secondary metabolites, which effect the

Table l4Documentation of femaented foods of Lahaul and Spiti area of Himachal Pradesh
Product Chi lra
Raw material used Buck wheat (Fig. 1) flour and
wheat flour
Source of *Khameer/ Malera
Nature ofproduct Flat spongy pan cake
Raw material used is
cultivated/ purchased.
Buckwheat flour and wheat
flour are mixed (4:1) into a
semi solid paste (Fig. 2).
Khameer is added. Mixture
is fermented at 25-30°C for
8-10 hrs.
It becomes double in
quantity with the presence
of gas.
It is made into flattened
cakes with oil (Fig. 3).
Consumption Breakfast /staple food
Variation in Regularly prepared and
production consumed by both gender as
a part of their diet
Consumption is less during
winter as compared to
summer due to low
temperature and longer
fermentation duration (about
2-3 days).
Jhan chang
Barley grains
Halwa like
Raw material used is
Barley grains are
washed and ground
into a paste. Cooked
for 2 hrs in an open
vessel or for 15-30
min in a pressure
Cooled, phab is adde
(one granule for l-2k
barley grains).
Mixed and wrapped
in woolen cloth.
Fermented at 25-
30°C for 2-3 days.
Product is directly
consumed or made
into a halwa like
Snack food
Prcparcd and
consumed more
during winter
Wheat flour
Flat deep fried
leavened chapatti
Raw material is
Wheat flour and
water is mixed alon;
with Inoculum and
is made into dough.
Fermented at 25-
30°C for 7-8 hrs
or overnight,
Small chapatti
(about lcm thick) is
Kept for l5-20
Deep-fry it.
Snack food
Rice flour
Flat spongy
pan cake
Raw material is
Rice flour and
water (2:1) are
mixed and
made into semi
solid paste.Salt
or spices are
added for taste.
Kept for
fermentation at 25
30°C for 3-4 hrs.
Cooked as flat
pancake with
Breakfasd Snack
Prepared and
during summer
due to
availability of
raw material.
Wheat grains
Halwa like
Raw material is
Wheat grains are
soaked in water for
3-4 days. Excess
water is drained Ofl
and fresh one is
added on each day.
Swollen grains are
grounded into a
Liquid white part is
separated from seer
coats. It is kept in a
vessel for 3-6 hrs.
Excess water is
drained off.
Smooth solid part i
collected a.nd sun
dried for 10-15 day
It is broken into
small pieces and
soaked in water
for l-2 hr.It is
made into a
halwa like
Sweet dish
Rarely prepared
due to long
period and
availability of
less sunlight.
*Khameer / Malera: A starter culture or inoculum prepared by natLu’al fermentation of wheat flour dough. It is used in various food
preparations as a starter culture

Table 24Mierobiological explorations of some traditional
fermented foods for predominating yeast flora
Product Isolate code Identified yeast
Chilra SF-I Soccharomyces cerevisiae
SF-II Debaromyces hansenii
SF-III Schizosaccharomyces sp.
Bhotu/~14 BS-I Saccharomyces cerevfsiae
BS-II Debaromyces hansenii
BS-III Saccharomycesjermentati
Babru RF-I Sacchoromyces cerevisiae
RF-II Debaromyces sp.
Khameer/ IF-I Saccharomyces cerevisioe
Malera IF-II Sacchoromycesfermentati
growth of pathogenic and spoilage bacteria and
thereby help in extending the shelf life of these
products . However, yeast flora contributes to
pleasant flavour Whereas presence of Saccharomyces
cerevisiae provides an additive advantage in further
improving the digestibility, amylolytic and nutritive
value of food products .
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Table 34Microbiological explorations of some traditional
fermented food for predominating bacterial flora
Product Isolate code Possible bacteria
Chilro LS-III Lactobacillus acidophilus
LM-I Leuconostoc mesenteroides
LM-II Lactococcus loctis
LM-III Unidentified Gram-ve rods
LM-IV Unidentified Gram-ve rods
Bhaturu LS-II Lactobacillus plantarum
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LM-I Leuconosloc mesenteroides
LM-II Loctococcus lactis
LM-III Unidentified Gram-ve rods
Babru LS-II Lactobacillus plantarum
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LM-III Unidentified Gram-ve rods
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LM-II Lactococcus luctis
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