Molding a Future with Koji

Learn how this microbial powerhouse is pushing the boundaries of flavor, food, and function.

| Spring 2020

koji-charcuterie-spread 
Photo by Kirsten K. Shockey

In the first two articles of this series, we introduced Aspergillus oryzae, or koji, in a way we hope has encouraged readers to embark on their own relationships with this amazing mold. After becoming acquainted with the fungus in “Koji: An Ancient Mold and Its Modern Renaissance,” we hope you tried your hand at the Amazake or Shiitake Tasty Paste recipes from “Koji in the Kitchen” to experience some of its secondary ferments. Remember, koji breaks down larger molecules in foods to make them available for use by other microbial fermenting allies. It also enhances and enriches a food’s intrinsic taste. In this third and final installment, we’ll share a recipe for shio koji, a secondary ferment that’s likely to become the secret sauce in your cooking. We’ll also explore additional amazake uses, and dive a little deeper into some of the ways different koji strains are being fine-tuned for exciting new developments in modern cuisine. To wrap it all up, we’ll take a look at what the koji renaissance could mean for food systems as a whole.

Shio Koji

Shio is a common secondary ferment of koji, meaning you need the primary ferment — some type of grain populated with koji — to produce it. Shio is used to amplify expressions of a food’s salty and savory characteristics. Think of it as a soy sauce without the soy notes. It’s typically added to sauces, dressings, and brines, and used to dress cooked vegetables and pickle raw foods. Try drizzling shio over a stir-fry after you’ve removed it from the heat (much like a finishing salt), or use it to brine a piece of fish before poaching or grilling. 

shio-koji-tub
Flickr/305 Seahill



If you make your own shio koji, you’ll find that it starts out looking like rice floating in water, but it finishes looking more like a constituted porridge. This is because the enzymes in koji and the added salt are slowly breaking down the grain that koji used as its substrate. At the end, the shio will be soupier, with fewer discernible grains of rice. You can also put it through a blender to make it smoother and creamier for your sauces and dressings. 

Make your own shio koji using this recipe.






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