Westerners are very familiar with some of the more popular Japanese ingredients, such as soy sauce and tofu. But how many of you have heard of or tried Shio Koji? You might be seeing it more often very soon, as chefs all around the world are discovering how versatile this umami-filled ingredient can be. In fact, it may be one of the biggest food trends of 2017.
Adding depths of flavor to a wide variety of dishes, shio koji has been utilized in Japan for millennia, serving as an ingredient, a seasoning and as a fermentation agent for foods like miso and alcoholic beverages like the Japanese sake.
What Is Shio Koji?
Shio Koji translates to “salt mold” and is a type of fungus. Shio koji typically refers to a mixture of short-grain white rice and fermented sea salt. The finished product looks something like a lumpy, thick white paste, sort of like a porridge, as the rice grains eventually break down when the mixture ages. The end result delivers big flavor, accompanied by a subtle salty taste.
Using Shio Koji in the Kitchen
There are a number of ways to use shio koji to enhance not just Japanese dishes, but Western cuisine as well. As popular as soy sauce is, shio koji might be a more commonly used all-purpose seasoning in Japanese cuisine. It can flavor, tenderize and season meats and fish. What’s more, you can even use it as a substitute for soy sauce in stir-fries. Also, this salmon and mushroom pasta is definitely a must try recipe!
You might also consider adding it to salads, using it to pickle vegetables, or even adding to baked goods. The results are new and exciting avenues of flavor that might have you using the ingredient every day!
Health Benefits of Shio Koji
As you might have already surmised, because shio koji is a fermented food, it contains a number of health benefits. In addition to being an extremely tasty and lower-sodium alternative to soy sauce, it also increases the levels of isoflavones. These are compounds that help to reduce the risk of cancer. Foods rich in shio koji also have probiotic properties.
And there you have it, yet another Japanese ingredient that everyone interested in eating healthy, enjoying great flavor (or both) should have in their kitchen!