Kinema is a fermented soya bean food of Nepal and the hilly regions of North-eastern States of India. Generally, the fermentation is dominated by Bacillus spp. that often cause alkalinity and desirable stickiness in the product. The present study was undertaken in a limited number of commercial (market) kinema samples to test for the presence of foodborne pathogens and their properties. Bacillus cereus was present in numbers exceeding 104 cfu/g product in five of the tested 15 market samples. Enterobacteriaceae and coliform bacteria exceeded 105 cfu/g in 10 of the 15 samples. Escherichia coli exceeding 105 cfu/g was found in two samples. Staphylococcus aureus was not detected in any of the tested samples. Of 31 isolated typical and atypical strains of B. cereus, 18 representative strains were tested qualitatively for the ability to produce diarrhoeal type enterotoxin (BCET) using an Oxoid BCET-RPLA test kit. Overall, BCET was formed by 12 strains in BHIG (brain heart infusion broth +1% glucose), by seven strains on sterilized cooked rice, and by five strains on sterilized cooked soya beans. Semi-quantitative tests on BCET revealed that levels exceeding 256 ng/g soya beans, produced by single pure culture inoculation with the isolated B. cereus strains, were reduced to ≤ 8 ng/g by frying kinema in oil, a common procedure when making kinema curry. It was also shown in a mixed pure culture experiment that a kinema strain B. Subtilis DK-W1, is able to suppress growth and BCET formation by a selected toxin producing strain (BC7-5) of B. cereus. It is concluded that the traditional way of making kinema and its culinary use in curries is safe.

The word Kinema might have originated from the Limbu (one of the major castes of the Nepalis) dialect Kinambaa, Ki meaning fermented, nambaa means flavour. Kinema is similar to natto of Japan, chungkok-jang of Korea, thua-nao of Thialand, Pe-poke of Myanmar, turangbai of Meghalaya, aakhuni of Nagaland, hawaijar of Manipur and bekanthu of Mizoram.


Yellow coated seeds of local cultivars of soybeans are soaked in spring water overnight and cooked by boiling until they can be pressed easily. Excess water is drained off and seeds are cracked lightly by a wooden pestle (locally called musli) in a wooden mortar (locally called okhli) to split the cotyledons, probably to accelerate the fermentation and increase the surface area for aerobic spore-forming bacteria. Grits are placed in a bamboo basket lined with locally grown fresh fern Glaphylopteriopsis erubescens  covered with a jute-bag and left to ferment naturally at ambient temperatures (25-40° C) for 2-3 days above earthen-oven kitchen. In some villages, about 1 % of fresh firewood ash is added in the cooked soybeans during production.

Instead of fern leaves, Ficus and banana leaves are also used as wrapping materials. The rest of the method remains the same. Completion of fermentation is indicated by the appearance of a white viscous mass and typical kinema flavour with slight ammoniacal odour. Shelf life of fresh kinema is 2-3 days during summer and a maximum of one week in winter without refrigeration. Sun-dried kinema is stored for several months at room temperature. Preparation of kinema varies from place to place and is still restricted to household level. It is interesting to note that the mountain women using their indigenous knowledge of food production exclusively prepare kinema. This unique indigenous knowledge of kinema-making has been protected as hereditary right and passes from mother to daughter.


Kinema curry
Serves 6

Kinema 250 g
Onion 1 chopped
Tomato 1 sliced
Green chilies 3 pieces
Turmeric powder 1/4 Tablespoon
Salt 1 Teaspoon

Method: Heat oil and add chopped onions and fry till it becomes tender, add tomatoes and turmeric powder and fry for 2 min and then Kinema is fried, add salt, sliced green chilies and fry for 3-5 min. A little water is poured to make a thick curry, and cook for 5-7 min. Kinema curry is ready for serve with cooked rice. Sun-dried kinema is sometimes mixed with leafy vegetable to make mixed curry as side-dish.


3 Responses to “Kinema”

  1. Vivek said

    Wow…thanks a lot. I wanted to make some at home but couldnt find anything on youtube. Seems very simple. Wil try.

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