Fermented rice is a classic version of overnight oats popular in the west. It has been the staple food for working class here in India, but this humble meal is in vogue even among elites in the recent times. This is mainly because people prefer to take simple nourishing meal over a lavish meal followed by a number of pills of different shapes & colors.
Fermentation of rice is a ubiquitous custom not only practiced in India but also in other Asian countries. Fermented rice is taken as a staple breakfast in almost every state of India as Panta bhat (West Bengal, Assam, Tripura & Bihar), Pakhala (Odisha, Jharkhand & Chhattisgarh), Saddhi annam (Andhrapradesh), Pazham kanji (Kerala), Pazhaya soru (Tamilnadu), etc. It is also used in other Asian cuisines to prepare Amazake (Japan), Jiu Niang (China), Burong Isda (Phillipines), Tapai (Indonesia), rice wine in most of the southeast Asian countries, etc.
We normally soak the cooked rice overnight allowing the fermentation to take place. On the next day fermented rice water (neeragaram, meaning liquid food) is consumed for breakfast & fermented rice (pazhaya sadam, meaning stale rice) for lunch. We believe that it is safer to soak the left-over rice in water than refrigerated for later use.
Vegetarians here like to take sweet & sour pazhaya sadam with pungent shallots & green chillies and others with sun-dried fish curry. I like to serve nutritious pazhaya sadam with sun-dried chillies (mor-milagai), chilli fritters (milaga bajji), spicy brinjal curry, herb chutney (or pickle) and some mango chunks to make it more enjoyable.
Now lets look into the health benefits of pazhaya sadam & neeragaram.
Benefits of fermented rice:
- Easily digestible: Fermented rice is predigested (broken down into simple compounds) by good bacteria present in it, thus it becomes easy to digest and light on stomach.
- Strong immune system: It contains millions of good bacteria, thus makes our immune system strong.
- Healthy gut: This probiotic rice protects us from disease causing microbes to grow in our intestines. So healthy gut obviously means strong immune system which in turn promotes our overall well being.
- Absorption of nutrients: Since rice is broken down into simpler compounds during fermentation, minerals & other micro nutrients are readily available for absorption. Besides these nutrients, Vitamins B6, B12 (boon to vegans) & K are also made available as by-products of this process.
- Body coolant: Fermented rice water (neeragaram) can be ideally taken during summer to keep our body cool & hydrated.
Fermentation of rice: We just need to soak the cooked rice to initiate the fermentation process and leave it covered overnight. I like to pour water in the ratio of 1:2 (rice:water) or more. It is preferred to use an earthenware or any other vessel that does not react with the food kept inside. After the fermentation, rice turns ripe, tender and easily soluble in water, so we can dissolve rice into water as much as possible and separate the liquid from rice as shown below.
How to serve neeragaram (liquid food): We used to add overnight soaked fenugreek seeds (methi seeds) along with chopped shallots & green chillies and salt into the fermented rice water. It is found to exhibit a significant decrease in blood sugar when neeragaram with methi seeds is taken regularly. Methi seeds may be used in summer and avoided during winter, as they keep our body cool. I enjoy drinking neeragaram than taking pazhaya sadam because it tastes divine, makes me feel hearty & active all through the day and above all it is the easiest breakfast that keeps me in good health.
How to serve pazhaya sadam: We usually mix pazhaya sadam with curd & salt. I like to add chopped shallots (chinna vengayam) into the rice and then add the tempering (optional) at the end as shown below. Pazhaya sadam tastes best when served with suitable accompaniments.
Please note :
- It is not a good practice to refrigerate fermented rice.
- You can use brown rice (or un-polished rice) for fermentation to enjoy the benefits of rice to the fullest.