As I unpacked my souvenirs from our trip to Japan, I grabbed a plastic deli of white sludge packed in plastic. The sludge was purchased in Nishiki market in Kyoto when I asked for koji. For some reason in those situations, even if I know the requested item is dubious relative to the request, I take it and run as to not offend. Either this was the funkiest koji I had ever seen or I had gotten something different from what I had requested.
When I asked my friend Yukari what the label read, she noted it was shio koji. After a little research, I found what it was. Shio koji is a condiment made using salt, water and koji (rice inoculated with mold used for making sake, miso, etc.) which seems to be a flavor super-charger with ultra-concentrated sweet, salty and umami flavors. it was also easy to make. It is just salt, water and koji plus time. Before even breaking open the shio koji, I opted to make my own.
Breaking the koji out of the fridge, I warmed water to 140 degrees (this is important, hot enough to bloom the rice, cool enough to keep mold alive) and poured enough of it over the koji to wet it without covering it. A little massage, the remaining water and two weeks of stirring daily later, I was a pint richer in funky, funky condiment newness.
The shio koji has an incredible range of flavor. It is strongly salty, but also strongly sweet from the sweetness in the koji. Then the two weeks of fermenting add a miso-like funk to porridge-like sludge and take the texture from rice and water to somewhere plasmatic with both soft granules and dissolved granules. My first use was in a project which is still in the works, but the first finished use of the shio koji was in combination of olive oil and grape vinegar spread over cabbage which was then roasted for almost an hour. The complexity of the cabbage was the first noticeable thing. It was not a flavor I could pinpoint, but I knew it was much more flavor than typical. The aroma from the kitchen was like buttery, yeasty rolls even though I was cooking cabbage. The flavor boost was confirmed when an unknowing co-diner asked what I “did to the cabbage”. I was initially concerned as if I had ruined it, but it was the opposite, it was mysterious AND improved.
After tasting this version, I opened the souvenir version to see where I hit out. It is indeed shio koji, but my version was sweeter and saltier, but not quite as funky. I’d guess it would be due to the quality of the koji, but given my inability to speak enough Japanese to get koji at Nishiki, I was happy to fall into this delicious new (to me) condiment.
300 grams water
100 grams koji
30 grams flaky sea salt
Step one: In a heat proof bowl, add salt and koji and mix to combine.
Step two: Heat the water to 140 degrees. Add enough to wet the koji. Massage the koji/water, then add the remaining water.
Step three: Keep out and semi-covered. Stir daily. Smell daily.
Step four: When smell changes from salty/funky to salty/sweet/funky, taste. When at the flavor you like (between a week and two weeks), spoon into a jar and put in fridge.
Note: Many websites indicate uses for shio koji as anything you’d put salt on. I’d disagree. Add to whatever you want to really flavorful in a savory way. It is complex, but not subtle.
Originally posted 2014-07-15 23:02:50. Republished by Blog Post Promoter