One of the great things about Japanese cuisine is that many of the standard ingredients used in Japanese cooking have been around for ages. Shio koji is one such ingredient.
My new freelance writing gig over at About.com has certainly motivated me to get back on the (food) ball. Everyone has been talking, posting, pinning, sharing, and tweeting about shio koji the last few years and I guess you could say I’m (unfashionably) late to the party. You can find my full article on shio koji at About.com here.
Shio Koji Definition
Shio koji, means shio: salt; and koji (also known as koji-kin): a fungus or mold used to ferment foods or make alcoholic beverages. The term koji, also refers to the fermented food itself, for example the product that is created when the mold and grain (rice, soybean etc.) are broken down.
The Friendly Food Fungus
The koji used in Japanese food refers to the fungus Aspergillus oryzae, also known as A. oryzae, a mold that is thought to have existed at least 2,000 years ago. This mold is used to produce miso (soy bean paste), sake (alcohol for cooking and drinking), mirin (sweet cooking sake or alcohol), rice vinegar, soy sauce, as well as other alcoholic beverages.
Shio koji is a mixture of fermented sea salt and short-grain white rice. When A. oryzae is combined with salt and steamed rice, the rice grains break down into enzymes, glutamates and sugars, imparting a mild salty taste with big umami punch.
How Do I Use Shio Koji?
Shio koji is a versatile ingredient and can be used similarly to salt or soy sauce. As a rule of thumb, about 2 teaspoons of shio koji can be substituted for 1 teaspoon of salt. Applications for shio koji are endless. At the most basic level, shio koji tenderizes meats and adds a mildly salty flavor with loads of umami. Use it as a marinade, tenderizer, salt substitute, in bbaked goods, or Western cuisine. I’ve found that the easiest way to use shio koji is straight, as a fish and meat marinade (about 1 tablespoon per 4 oz of meat or seafood) and also for marinating vegetables to grill or sauté.
Where Do I find Shio Koji?
Here in the U.S., shio koji is available for purchase at Japanese supermarkets in the refrigerated section. Shio koji may also be purchased online if you do not have access to a local Japanese grocery store. It can be found in either a plastic tub, glass jar or pouch, depending on the brand. Personally, I prefer the ease of use of the pouch style as it is quick and I am not brand loyal. I just like squeezing out the
Learn more about shio koji by reading my detailed article on About.com.