Shio koji. Shio koji. Shio koji. Try saying that fast three times.
I have been hearing about this wondrous concoction called shio koji, a flavour enhancer that imbues a salty equivalent to regular old salt with half the actual salt content. Shio koji is also rich in enzymes which aid in digestion and are good for overall health. In Japan, people use shio koji to marinate meats, salt tofu, pickle vegetables, in salad dressings and even in some desserts. It is a condiment of yore, used in the old days to preserve and marinate foods, but a renaissance is taking place with a
new generation beguiled by the old standby’s modern usages.
I was indeed curious about shio koji due mainly to my love of sake. The main ingredient in shio koji is koji, which is also used extensively in sake-making. Koji is steamed rice that has been inoculated with aspergillus oryzae. This mold creates an enzymatic process which converts the rice starch into useable sugar. Essentially a form of malting, the rice surface becomes speckled with sugar and possesses aromatics reminiscent of sweet chestnuts.
Adding salt (aka shio) to the koji and letting it sit in room temperature for about 7-14 days (make sure to mix well each day) breaks it down further, producing a briny fermented paste. This condiment can be kept in the fridge for a week and used in recipes as a healthier replacement for salt.
So it seems the permutations with koji are endless—not only is it utilized in the manufacturing
of sake, shochu, miso, mirin, amazake, and soy sauce, we can add shio koji to the list. Are you interested to see how umami-enhancing shio koji is?
I sure am.
Let’s find out. I am going to make some, thanks to a gift of fresh koji from local sake brewery, Keyope, in Richmond.
This is the recipe as provided to me by Toji (master brewer) Yoshiaki Kasugai at Keyope:
Shio Koji Recipe
200 g koji
200 – 300 cc water (I used just over 1 C)
60 g salt
Mix koji with salt. Use your hands to rub the ingredients together.
This helps to separate the koji which might be stuck together.
Once combined, place in a non-metal container. (I used a mason jar.)
Pour water into the dry ingredients and mix well.
Leave the container in room temperature for 7-14 days (shorter if warmer out; longer if cold) and remember to mix well once each day. Keep it loosely covered, as the mixture is fermenting and can explode from gas build up if covered too tightly.
Here’s what it looks like newly combined. It is salty as heck! The weather is pretty warm these days so I anticipate it will be done rather quickly.
I will post pix of what it looks like each day.