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Wadian - A fermented Indian food

This article, written by G.K. Sharma, A.D. Semwal, S.S. Arya tells of their research on wadian - a traditional food in many areas of the world.

Wadian, a traditional savoury food is usually made from legumes such as blackgram lentils (Phaseolus mungo), bengal-gram lentils (Cicer arietinum), and green-gram lentil (Paseolus aureus). In addition to legume-based wadian, other types are made from arrowroot starch (Phul Wadian) and wheat flour. They may be eaten either deep fat fried or unfried.

Legume-based wadians are more popular in northern India, while starch-based types are more popular in south India They are prepared from a thick, spiced batter which is formed into balls of varying sizes (15-40g) and then dried. After drying, the wadian may be fried and eaten as a savoury snack, or may be added to other Indian dishes of rice, vegetables arid pulses. When making wadian, the raw material is soaked and then wet milled, after which salt and spices are beaten in to form a soft dough. This is made into small balls and sun dried. The recipe varies from region to region but typically consists of 1kg legume flour paste (45 parts legume &l, 55 parts water), 5-10g dried fenugreek leaves, 3-5g coriander powder, 1 - 3g cumin seed powder, 1 - 3g chili powder, 1 - 2g black pepper, 0.5 - 1g asafoetida, 2-3g ginger and 5-8g salt. The paste and spices powder must be whisked thoroughly to incorporate air into the batter which, after sun drying has a porous texture and shiny appearance After drying the final moisture content is 9-12 per cent. The approximate composition is shown in Table 1.

During production, the batter is left to stand, which results in fermentation. This enhances both the digestibility and keeping quality of wadian. The fermentation also results in a significant increase in water-soluble B-vitamins including thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2) and cyanocobalamine (B12), (though drying then reduces these). Proteinase activity increases significantly, as does the level of citric acid which rises to about 1.7 per cent in the final product and helps to extend the shelf life. As can be seen, legume wadian is very good source of protein.

Fermentation is carried out by natural microflora in the raw materials and the local environment. The particular microorganisms associated with fermentation vary during the seasons; with summer more favourable for bacteria (i.e. Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Lactobacillius fermentum) and winter being more favourable for yeasts (i.e. Saccharomyces cerevisiae) which give a more raised or leavened product. (Soni & Sandhu, 1990).

Legume-based, wadians take rather long time to cook (20-25 minutes) which is a disadvantage. The shelf life is 6-10 months depending upon the packaging used.

A standard recipe and process has been developed for making instant spiced vegetable wadian based on pre-gelatinized legume flour, cooked vegetables and spices This product, made from bengalgram flour, cooked carrots, bottlegourd, potatoes, spices and salts, will reconstitute in three minutes when boiled.

PREPARATION OF INSTANT VEGETABLE WADIAN

Mix legume flour (200g) with water (800ml) and vegetable oil (20g) and cook for ten minutes to obtain a smooth paste. The cooked legume paste is then mixed with grated cooked carrot (600g), bottlegourd (600g) mashed potatoes (600g), salt (10g), garlic powder (2g), chilly powder (5g), turmeric powder (2g) and ginger powder (2g). (A variation of this recipe includes an unspiced variety). The ingredients should be mixed thoroughly and the fluffy dough made into 15-20g balls which should be dried at 60°C for 2 hours and subsequently at 80°C for 6 hours in an air drying cabinet to give a final moisture content below 5 per cent. (Sharma et al, unpublished).

Table 1 Composition of wadian (%)

Blackgram Greengram


wadian

wadian

Moisture

9.1

12.2

Protein

21.0

19.4

Ash

4.3

6.1

Acidity

1.7

1.7

Fibre

0.1

0.1

Fat

0.4

0.5

Instant vegetable wadian (unspiced) contains 14.4 per cent protein, 6.65 per cent fat, 4.72 per cent total ash, 0.54 per cent acid insoluble ash and 3.42 per cent moisture; while spiced vegetable wadi (blended with spices and deep fried) contains 10.73 per cent protein, 23.94 per cent fat, 5.85 per cent total ash, and 3.24 per cent moisture. It has a shelf life of up to 12 months at ambient temperatures, depending on the packaging used.

We believe the product will find a market among the increasing range of convenience foods and it is also of interest in the high remote areas of India which are snowbound and without fresh vegetables for part of the year.