Alkaline-fermented foods: a review with emphasis on pidan fermentation

Crit Rev Microbiol. 1996;22(2):101-38. doi: 10.3109/10408419609106457.


Alkaline-fermented foods constitute a group of less-known food products that are widely consumed in Southeast Asia and African countries. They can be made from different raw ingredients. For instance, Japanese natto, Thai thua-nao, and kinema are made from cooked soybeans, dawadawa from African locust beans, ogiri from melon seeds, ugba from African oil beans, kawal from fresh legale leaves, owoh from cotton seeds, and pidan from fresh poultry eggs. In alkaline-fermented foods, the protein of the raw materials is broken down into amino acids and peptides; ammonia is released during the fermentation, raising the pH of the final products and giving the food a strong ammoniacal smell. Most alkaline fermentations are achieved spontaneously by mixed bacteria cultures, principally dominated by Bacillus subtilis. In other cases, pure cultures can be used. For example, Japanese natto is inoculated with a pure culture of B. subtilis var natto. Pidan is a special example of alkaline fermentation. Instead of using microorganisms, pidan is made using an alkali-treated fermentation. Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is produced from the reaction of sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), water (H2O), and calcium oxide (CaO) of pickle or coating mud. NaOH penetrates into the eggs, causing the physicochemical changes, color changes, and gelation. The appearance of pidan differs from fresh eggs in that the white becomes a semitransparent tea-brown color, and the yolk is solid or semisolid with a dark-green color. The nutritional value of pidan is slightly decreased compared with fresh eggs, but pidan has an extremely long shelf life and a pleasant, fragrant taste that is preferred by most people in Southeast Asian countries. In a small-scale laboratory study conducted by the authors, B. subtilis was not found in pidan. Four Staphylococcus spp. (S. cohnii, S. epidermidis, S. haemolyticus, and S. warneri) and two strains of Bacillus spp. (B. cereus and B. macerans) were isolated from pidan. Staphylococcus spp. did not contribute to the fermentation and were considered contaminants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Asia, Southeastern
  • Bacillus / isolation & purification
  • Eggs*
  • Fermentation / physiology*
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Food Technology / methods*
  • Food*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Sodium Hydroxide / chemistry*
  • Staphylococcus / isolation & purification


  • Sodium Hydroxide