(Don’t mind its pungent smell, this is what to eat these days.)
THE Covid-19 pandemic has uncovered the efficacy of fermented food in increasing the human body’s resistance to diseases, including the dreaded coronavirus.
And Dr. Clarita Carlos, one of the most sought-after and credible political scholars and a genuine Ilocana is grateful to her grandparents for introducing her to binubudan.
Very recently, she posted on Facebook about her grandparents’ living into their 90s, perhaps due in part to a fermented rice dish called binubudan.
“I just remembered that when we were young, my grandfather from Ilocos would bring in a clay pot full of a pungent-smelling rice called binubudan,” Dr. Clarita said.
She recalled how difficult it was to make the young members of the family eat the strange-smelling dish.
“I know there is always a struggle to make us eat it, but given the dictatorial way my father runs our household, he made sure we eat this foul-smelling rice,” she said. “We usually eat it by putting clothes pins on our noses.”
“Now, I know why… Thank you, Lilong! Now I realize that you certainly know more than we, city dwellers,” she said. “Trivia: Lilong died at the age of 99. Lilang died at the age of 96.”
Buro is the most common word used in many parts of the Philippines to mean fermented vegetables, fish, or meat. It is a very popular method of food preservation in Pampanga and many parts of Central Luzon.
Filipinos prepare and consume many kinds of fermented products. Most widespread is atsarang papaya, made by preserving grated unripe papaya with ginger, garlic, and chili peppers in vinegar. Next is burong manga, composed of whole or sliced green mango in brine.
A bit more complex is burong mustasa, mustard leaves immersed in salt and rice porridge. Similar to a classic Chinese preserve, it is cooked in Pinoy homes with scrambled eggs or in omelets during the rainy season or whenever fresh vegetables are unavailable.
There is a personal favorite is burong dalag, mudfish preserved in fermented rice. Some like it sautéed in garlic, onions, and tomatoes, wrapped in fresh mustard leaf and served with crisp grilled catfish.
Other veggie atsara in bottles are okra, onions, and kangkong stems. These are now people’s arms in fighting Covid 19.
Fermented food everywhere
Among foreign food imports, kimchi is arguably the most visible and accepted fermented product, boosted by published studies that point to kimchi for low Covid-19 fatality rates of South Korea.
According to the British newspaper The Sun, Dr. Jean Bousquet, honorary professor of Pulmonary Medicine at Montpellier University, France, and his team studied a link between low fatalities and national dietary differences and found that countries where fermented cabbage forms a key part of their diet had lower fatalities.
Fermented cabbage helps decrease levels of ACE2, an enzyme in the cell membrane mostly found in lungs and used by Covid-19 virus as an entry point into the body. Consuming high levels of fermented cabbage reduces the number of ACE2, making it more difficult for the virus to invade a host. High in antioxidants, fermented cabbage also boosts immunity.
The research team also looked into Germany’s sauerkraut, which is finely cut cabbage fermented in salt and often served with sausages and meats. The study also found that nations that consume a lot of yoghurt and caviar, such as Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey, have also experienced low death rates.
And mind you, Dr. Jean advises people to eat fermented vegetables at breakfast.