North-East Ethnic Alcohol Beverages Can Be A Strong Industry

Researchers from the Sikkim University Gangtok and National Center for Microbial Resource National Center for Cell Science NCCS Pune based their conclusion after finding a rich diversity of teeming microbes in starter cultures - a preparation that s
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Traditional home-based brewing of ethnic alcoholic beverages in Sikkim and Meghalaya can be transformed into a robust industry if adequate scientific and technical boost is provided, researchers said.

Researchers from the Sikkim University, Gangtok and National Center for Microbial Resource, National Center for Cell Science (NCCS), Pune, based their conclusion after finding a rich diversity of teeming microbes in starter cultures - a preparation that's used to kick-start the fermentation process for ethnic fermented food.

The study focused on profiling the microbial community composition of "marcha" and "thiat" - traditionally prepared ethnic starter cultures of Sikkim and Meghalaya using next generation sequencing (DNA sequencing).

These traditional practices preserve native microbes in the form of dry, flattened or round balls for alcoholic beverages and are common in ethnic communities of South-East Asia, including the Himalayan regions of India, Nepal, Bhutan and China.

Published in the Nature Scientific Reports in September, this is the first report on complete microbial community profile of traditionally prepared amylolytic starters of India using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technique.

"Ethnic fermented beverages and alcoholic drinks have the potential to develop the beverage industry if proper scientific and technical support is applied to the existing indigenous practices of home based alcoholic fermentation," said Tamang, Department of Microbiology, Sikkim University.

"Marcha" is prepared from soaked rice with some wild herbs, ginger and red dry chilli and one to two per cent of previously prepared "marcha" powder. The final product after grinding, fermentation and sun drying are round or flattened balls that are used as starters for production of cereal-based ethnic fermented beverages such as "akodo ko jaanr", "abhaati jaanr" and "araksi" etc.

During "thiat" preparation, soaked glutinous rice is grinned with leaves and roots of a wild plant. It is mixed and made into dough by adding water. It is used to ferment alcoholic beverage locally called "akiad" in Meghalaya.

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