Lessons in Life Foods

Azeem Butt founded Life Foods, Inc. on Maui in January of 2013 and his products just became available on Kauai. With a farm-to-shelf approach, the flavorful product line bursts with life, creating a fermentation revelation.

For thousands of years, cultures around the world have created fermented products such as wine, beer, kombucha, bread, cheese, chocolate, yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and poi.

Each item in the line of 12 convenience products is made with fermented vegetables and fruit. These products contain beneficial bacteria and consuming them aids in digestion and strengthens immunity. All are made with organic ingredients and are vegan, soy-free, gluten-free and non-GMO.

“Our biggest challenge is sourcing 100 percent organic and non-GMO ingredients,” says Azeem. “As the demand for those ingredients increases, the supply lags. But as the industry grows, this problem will get resolved.”

Life Foods vegetable ketchup combines zesty, fermented tomatoes and tamarind, which are lightly tempered by coconut sugar and dried apricots. For my husband, Dan, the tang and texture is reminiscent of summers in Kansas with his great grandmother, who grew tomatoes and made ketchup.

A dollop of mayonnaise leaves a trace of garlic. The creamy spread is made with fermented white taro from Hawaii, The Big Island; fermented cabbage and fermented Maui onions. Deep orange mustard gets its color from fermented carrots and turmeric. Fermented white taro lends a creamy base to the course texture and brown mustard seeds give it a little bite.

Slather the trio on a Passion Bakery taro brioche bun and top with a Life Foods patty. Loaded with vitamin A (90 percent DV), vitamin K (50 percent DV) and manganese (45 percent DV) the Original Superfoods Burger packs 10 grams of protein from buckwheat, chia seeds and quinoa. Sliders are great for kids and Purity, Immunity or Energy burgers contain extra ingredients that help detoxify (yacon), boost your immune system (reishi mushroom) or give you an extra push (maca).

For breakfast, I like to top a Life Foods patty with sauteed kale and two poached eggs. I drizzle a little Pineapple Thai Chi hot sauce on top, made with roasted pineapple and jalapenos. Banana Thai Chi hot sauce, made with caramelized bananas, is at least three times hotter due to birds-eye chilies and Life Foods Aloha Kimchi.

The kimchi is so hot, I add a little to stir-fried brown rice and scrambled eggs. Life Foods Aloha Kraut, made with cabbage, Maui onion and fennel, is blended with dandelion greens, cilantro, garlic, ginger, chili paste, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. For extra crunch and nutrition, I garnish the stir-fry with Life Foods Superfood Gomasio, made with hemp seeds, black and white sesame seeds, dulse, nori, and Hawaiian sea salt.

Tempeh, a traditional Indonesian food, is typically made with fermented soybeans, which is a common food allergen. Life Foods Aloha Tempeh is made with fermented mung beans. Cut the frozen block into strips, pan-fry until golden and dip into Life Foods Maqui Berry Superfood balsamic dressing.

Maqui berries, which grow wild throughout parts of southern Chile, are very rich in anthocyanins, which are purple pigments with very high antioxidant activity. Early Polynesian voyagers considered noni a superfood, despite the smell and taste that is similar to blue cheese.

Life Foods Noni Ranch dressing is made with fermented noni juice, taro, cabbage, sweet onions and fennel. Garlic and fresh herbs lend a savory finish and the rich dressing clings to lettuce leaves beautifully.

“Life Foods came about because it is difficult to feed kids vegetarian foods,” says Azeem. “I started with the help of amazing vegan chefs and developed a line of convenience foods that are full of nutrition and taste good, too.”

For more information, locations and recipes, visit lifefoodsinc.com

• Marta Lane, a food writer on Kauai since 2010, offers farm to fork food tours and is the author of Tasting Kauai: Restaurants – From Food Trucks to Fine Dining, A Guide to Eating Well on the Garden Island. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.

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