New vegan kimchi is pretty close to the original microbially.
In a comparison between vegan kimchi made with miso, and traditional kimchi made with the fish sauce it has been revealed that the two are microbially pretty close as the fermentation equalizes the bacterial communities.
Kimchi is a fermented traditional Korean dish and is hugely popular around the world. Vegans and vegetarians have been avoiding the dish because most of the recipes call for some kind of fish sauce to give it a little extra flavor boost. Now people who avoid fish have a reason to celebrate. Researchers have compared kimchi made in the traditional way with fish sauce, and vegan kimchi made with miso paste and found the two support remarkably similar microbes, reported by Andrew Masterson for Cosmos Magazine.
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Research at first found that vegan kimchi was very different from traditional kimchi on a microbial level. Miso paste, made from fermented soybeans, bring a unique load of bacteria to the mixture. However, researchers found that by the end of the fermentation process, both batches of vegan and traditional kimchi had bacterial communities that feature two genera: Lactobacillus and leuconostoc.
The unique bacteria in miso’s savory, salty paste disappeared from the fermenting cabbage, says supervising researcher Peter Belenky, a microbiologist and associate professor at Brown University in a press release. “The fact that those bacteria were lost almost immediately during the fermentation was surprising,” said Belenky. “We thought they’d carry over to the kimchi, but they didn’t.” He suspects the salt in the miso may have supported the salt-loving bacteria, but once introduced to the kimchi, the microbes were quickly overwhelmed.
The experiment originally started as a side venture in Belenky’s lab, but their interest in food science lead the team in discovering the difference between the two types of kimchi. Commercial kimchi producers already have a history in making some vegan-friendly products by swapping out the fish products for miso paste.
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Vegan kimchi recipes may vary from traditional practices, but the age-old dish has a long history of variation in recipes. In Korea alone, there about 200 different types of kimchi, as noted by scientists from the Korean Food Research Institute in a 2015 article for the Journal of Ethical Foods.
With the rise of veganism over recent times it’s no wonder that more and more food is being veganized, and now there is one more dish that vegans can enjoy.
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