September 23, 2012
Shio Koji from Okinawa (used special salt from Ishigaki island)
Today, I would like to share with you the miracle condiment called "shio koji" which has been a total phenomenon in Japan since 2011 (although it has existed for 300 years). Shio koji is a paste mixed with salt (shio) and fermented rice (koji). Western people tend to step back when they see fermented products. I agree that many of them stink, but shio koji does not have that rotten aroma and it is actually very tasty. Koji can be made from many different grains like rice, barley or soy. Then they are fermented with a culture (mold or bacteria). They are used to make soy sauce, miso, pickles, shochu (Japanese liqueur) and other traditional items for Japanese cooking.
Dried rice koji. Mix this with salt and water to make shio koji.
But why is it a miracle condiment? Shio koji contributes to both health and cooking. An enzyme in koji breaks down carbs and protein in meat and fish and helps them to tender at the same time it increases the sugar and amino acid to create more umani. It is also known to help digestive health just like other popular fermented foods like yogurt.
I have tried several recipes at home and so far they all turned out to be delicious. My husband is not big fan of fermented food but he liked them all. In fact, when I made the grilled shio koji marinated chicken, he asked me what was the secret for the chicken. I put the chicken pieces in a zipper bag and put a few tablespoons of shio koji and massaged the chicken. Then I marinade for a few hours (or overnight). Grill the chicken in the oven or on a BBQ grill. I also tried stir fry with broccoli and shrimp and it was really great. Both chicken and stir fry used only shio koji for flavor. Nothing else.
The bottle I brought back is almost empty so it is time to make my own shio koji. If you live outside of Japan, you may not be able to find rice koji (I can't find dried rice koji at any online stores so far) and you may have to make your own rice koji first. I will post a how-to soon.