Introduction

Fermentation is a process in which complex compounds including carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are broken down to simpler forms under aerobic or anaerobic conditions and have been used by the food industry for centuries. The products of fermentation can be used as a food source itself or as an additive. Fermentation has many roles including detoxification, adding nutritional value, creating aromas or flavors, reducing cooking time and so fuel consumption, and some fermented foods may even have therapeutic value. A knowledge of microbiology, genetics, and biochemistry is important in the food fermentation industry as yeasts, molds, and bacteria play an integral role in food fermentation. Improvement of these microorganisms by genetic manipulation may result in higher-quality fermented food and a considerable amount of work has been done in the screening of useful microorganisms. Further development of fermentation equipment, toxin measurement, prevention of food spoilage, nutritional analysis, flavor and taste assessment, and addition of colors and additives are underway to attain the maximum potential from this process. Many of the issues are covered in a book edited by Steinkraus (1996) and in another two edited by Joshi and Pandey (1999).

Although some fungi are pathogenic to plants and animals and thus bring about economic losses, many of them are beneficial to mankind especially in food production. In this chapter, different types of fermented food with fungal involvement in the fermentation process are described. It is worth noting that different countries may have some similar indigenous fermented food as well as varieties that are unique to that country.

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