A fermentation starter (called simply starter within the corresponding context) is a preparation to assist the beginning of the fermentation process in preparation of various foods and fermented drinks. A starter culture is a microbiological culture which actually performs fermentation. These starters usually consist of a cultivation medium, such as grains, seeds, or nutrient liquids that have been well colonized by the microorganisms used for the fermentation.
In descriptions of national cuisines, fermentation starters may be referred to by their national names:
- Qū (simplified: 曲; traditional: 麴, also romanized as chu) (China)
- Jiuqu (simplified Chinese: 酒曲; traditional Chinese: 酒麴; pinyin: jiǔ qū): the starter used for making Chinese alcoholic beverages
- Laomian (pinyin: laomian; literally: "old dough" pinyin: mianfei; literally: "dough fat"): Chinese sourdough starter commonly used in Northern Chinese cuisine, the sourness of the starter is commonly quenched with sodium carbonate prior to use.
- Nuruk or Nulook (누룩), meju or Mae-joo or Mae-zu (메주) (Korea)
- Koji (麹) (Japan)
- Ragi (Indonesia and Malaysia)
- Bakhar, ranu, marchaar (murcha) (India)
- Bubod (Philippines)
- Loopang (look pang Thai: ลูกแป้ง) (Thailand)
- Levain (France)
- Bread zakvaska (закваска, sourdough) (Russia, Ukraine)
- Opara (опара), (Russia), a starter based on yeast
Typical microorganisms used in starters include various bacteria and fungi (yeasts and molds): Rhizopus, Aspergillus, Mucor, Amylomyces, Endomycopsis, Saccharomyces, Hansenula anomala, Lactobacillus, Acetobacter, etc. Various national cultures have various active ingredients in starters, and often involve mixed microflora.
- "椒盐筋饼", 天天饮食 (food.cntv.cn)
- Norman F. Haard, S.A. Odunfa, Cherl-Ho Lee, R. Quintero-Ramírez, Argelia Lorence-Quiñones, Carmen Wacher-Radarte, Fermented Cereals: A Global Perspective, Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, 1999, ISBN 92-5-104296-9.
- Dilip K. Arora, Libero Ajello, K. G. Mukerji, Handbook of Applied Mycology: Foods and Feeds, Volume 3, CRC Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8247-8491-X.