Food culture of the ethnic groups of the people in the Eastern Himalayas shows a culmination of both ‘rice-soybean-alcoholic beverage diet’, the characteristic food culture of the Oriental countries and ‘wheat-milk-non-alcoholic beverage diet’ of the Western and Hindu Kush Himalayas. This predicts a transition of an emergence of mixed food culture of both Oriental East and Western Hindu-Kush Himalayas. As seen in case of fermented soybean foods, that are prepared and consumed in the Eastern Himalayas and the adjoining foot-hills, such as kinema in eastern Nepal, the Darjeeling hills, Sikkim and Bhutan, aakhuni in Nagaland, hawaijar in Manipur and turangbai in Meghalaya, bekanthu in Mizoram and pe-poke in Myannmar. Consumption of fermented soybean food is uncommon in the Western and Hindu-Kush Himalayas and also in other parts of India. These fermented soybeans food are similar to natto of Japan, thua-nao of northern Thailand, dou-chi of China and chungkok-jang of Korea.

Most of the traditional fermented foods are prepared by processes of solid substrate fermentation in which the substrate is allowed to ferment either naturally or by adding starter cultures. In East and South-East Asia, filamentous moulds are predominant microorganisms in the fermentation processes, whereas in Africa, Europe and America, fermented products are prepared exclusively using bacteria or bacteria-yeast mixed cultures; moulds seem to be little or never used. However, in the Eastern Himalayas, all the three major groups of microorganism (moulds-yeasts-bacteria) are associated with traditional fermented foods and beverages (Tamang, 1998a), showing the transition food culture.

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