Kinema is a traditional Nepalese food made from fermented soybeans. The majority of its preparation, consumption, and occasionally sale is done by Limbus in eastern Nepal, particularly in the hills. The preparation is only done at the level of the household. It is similar to other fermented soybean products like tempeh, natto, and doenjang.
While it might appear like a “rotten bean” to people who don’t consume it, it is actually fermented food to those who do. This is because kinema has a strong odor and a slimy appearance similar to rotten food. However, the flavor and consistency provide for a pleasant eating experience for those who consume it. It is consumed raw, as a fried curry dish served with boiling rice, pickled, or occasionally blended with other vegetables.
Process of Kinema making
The process for making kinema varies from household to household depending on the location, the needs of the family, and the materials available. Beans are often prepared using the following steps: soaking, cooking, splitting, mixing with firewood ash, packing in bamboo baskets lined with plant leaves, and overnight fermentation in a warm environment. The finished product has a sticky texture, a flavor that is reminiscent of must, and an ammonia-like odor. When pulling apart beans, kinema is said to be of good grade if longer mycelium forms.
Fresh kinema is fermented, then sun-dried and kept for months. Ash is thought to raise the pH of cooked soybeans, inhibiting the growth of Bacillus and encouraging the growth of unwanted organisms like fungus while boosting the mineral content of the finished product.
In addition to Bacillus subtilis, traditional kinema preparations contain various yeast and mold strains, Enterococcus faecium, Candida parapsilosis, and Geotrichum candidum, among other microbes.
The probability of product contamination creating health risks may be affected by unhygienic preparation techniques, poor storage conditions, the substrate itself, and materials used. The quality of kinema is likewise variable; items vary depending on how they were made, what materials were utilized, and who made them. As it is wrapped in plant leaves and has the characteristic smell of those leaves, the product has a rough appearance.
Kinema preparation is a relatively simple process.
- In the traditional method, soybeans (either white or brown) are cooked, cooled to room temperature, mixed with a tiny amount of vegetable ash, wrapped in banana leaves or rice straw, and placed in a warm environment for two to three days to ferment.
- The beans are usually mashed in wooden pestle or macerated with hands so as to split them apart.
- A well-fermented kinema has a stringy appearance (slimy when touched), a tendency to form cake, and a prolonged nutty to musty flavor.
- Unless dried, the preparation has a very short shelf-life (2-3 days) at room temperature.
- Since manufacturing is a spontaneous fermentation, no additional microbial culture is needed.
- The rice straw or banana leaves (other leaves are occasionally used) contain microbial flora that serves as an inoculum.
- Wood ash, which is frequently regarded as a necessary component in the production of kinema, might not be necessary for the fermentation process, but it might be viewed as advantageous because it might provide the organisms with specific minerals.
- Additionally, the environment becomes alkaline, which encourages fermentation. Additionally, the use of ash may have contributed to the kinema’s distinctive flavor.
Health benefits of kinema
The fermentation process and nutritional composition of kinema are thought to have various possible health benefits, despite the fact that it has not been investigated as extensively as some other fermented foods.
Complex components in soybeans, like proteins and carbohydrates, are broken down into more easily digested forms during the fermentation process used to make kinema. This may reduce the digestive discomfort caused on by eating raw soybeans and increase the nutrients’ digestibility.
Trypsin inhibitors and phytic acid, which are included in soy, can block the digestion of proteins and interfere with the absorption of several minerals. By lowering the quantities of these antinutrients, the fermentation process used to make kinema can increase the bioavailability of minerals and proteins in the soybeans.
Increased Nutrient Content:
Fermentation can enhance the nutritional profile of foods. Kinema may contain higher levels of certain vitamins, minerals, and amino acids compared to unfermented soybeans. These nutrients include B vitamins, such as folate and riboflavin, as well as essential amino acids.
Isoflavones’ Potential Health Benefits:
Soybeans are known to contain substances known as isoflavones, which are connected to potential health advantages such as hormonal balance and cardiovascular health. The quantities and bioavailability of these chemicals in kinema may change as a result of fermentation.
Fermented foods, such as kinema, are full of good bacteria, which can improve gut health. A balanced gut flora may result from the probiotics, potentially enhancing digestion, immunological response, and general health.
Support for Lactose Intolerance:
Since soybeans’ lactose can be broken down during fermentation, kinema may be an appropriate diet for those who are lactose intolerant.
Harmful effect of kinema
Due to its fermentation process and nutritional value, kinema may have certain health benefits, but there are also some potential drawbacks to keep in mind, especially if ingested in excess or by people who have specific medical issues. The following are a few negative impacts of kinema:
Since kinema originates from fermented soybeans, some people may have allergies to such foods. In serious cases, an allergic reaction can cause anaphylaxis, which can cause mild symptoms including skin rashes and intestinal problems.
Although fermentation can make food more digestible for many people, some people may still feel queasy or bloated after eating fermented foods like kinema. This might be brought on by certain substances or a person’s particular digestive system.
Fermented foods, such as kinema, may include higher amounts of histamine, a substance that in some people can cause allergic-like symptoms. Histamine sensitivity can cause symptoms like headaches, hives, or stomach problems.
Potential for Spoilage:
Since kinema is a fermented food product, improper fermentation or storage conditions can lead to spoilage or the growth of harmful microorganisms. It’s important to ensure that it is prepared and stored properly to avoid foodborne illnesses.
Salt and Sodium Content:
Kinema is frequently salted during the fermenting process, and consuming too much salt can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems, particularly in people who are hypertensive or sensitive to sodium.
Learn more about Gundruk making
- Kumar, Sanjay. “Comparative Study of the Kinema Prepared.”
- Suyal, D.C., Sharma, A., Sharma, P. et al. “Microbiome diversity of fermented Kinema, an ethnic Himalayan soybean food and its potential for human health.” Journal of Ethnic Foods, 2(1), 2015.
- Sharma, Arvind, and K. N. Sakhya. “Traditional production and processing of Kinema.”
- “Mineral and Amino Acid Contents of Kinema: A Fermented Soybean Food Prepared in Nepal.” National Library of Medicine (PubMed Central), 2021.
- Sharma, L., Thapa, N., Shakya, P.R., et al. “Mineral and Amino Acid Contents of Kinema: A Fermented Soybean Food Prepared in Nepal.” Academia.edu, 2021.