Shio koji is a traditional Japanese condiment used for seasoning or marinating. It is becoming increasingly popular because of its taste and its high enzyme content. Thanks to these enzymes, shio koji magically transforms the food it touches.
This mild, salty, and slightly sweet sauce is a real flavour booster! Shio koji belongs to the same family as miso and soy sauce. However, unlike the latter, it can be ready in just a few days.
Used in Japan for centuries, shio koji has gained popularity in the West in recent years due to the increasing interest in fermented foods.
Shio koji is a fermented marinade prepared with only three ingredients: salt, water, and koji. It is also called “salted koji” or “Koji Marinade“.
Shio koji’s main ingredient is koji, rice colonized by the noble mould Aspergillus oryzae. Koji is also the basic ingredient for miso, soy sauce, and sake.
Shio koji is an “express” fermentation of koji. A tasty product can be obtained in only one week! Compared to miso, which usually requires at least 6 months of fermentation, shio koji is almost instantaneous.
Shio koji can take many forms. The most common one is a thick sauce with a porridge-like consistency and a creamy white colour. You can also dilute the shio koji and crush it to make a more fluid and creamy sauce.
This is your flavour booster!
What does shio koji taste like?
As is, shio koji has a salty, umami taste, reminiscent of soy sauce. However, it also has slightly sweet and floral notes, because of the koji it contains.
Lemon, onion, or garlic can also be added during fermentation to create an even more flavourful shio koji.
Why is shio koji a flavour enhancer?
Shio koji is used to enhance the deliciousness and “umami” flavours of foods. To understand how it works, you need to delve into the science of taste!
Some molecules, such as proteins and starch, are too large to be captured by our taste buds.
The magic of shio koji is that it contains a large number of enzymes. These enzymes can break down large molecules into smaller ones. These new molecules can more easily be caught by the taste buds, creating new flavours!
For example, shio koji contains “protease” enzymes that can break down meat proteins into smaller molecules called amino acids. It is the amino acids that are responsible for giving the meat its flavour and umami!
Shio koji also contains “amylase” enzymes, which convert starch into simple sugars, making it easier to caramelize food.
Shio koji also affects the texture of meat, making it incredibly juicy and tender. It also firms up the flesh of fish and seafood.
Rice koji blocks
How to use shio koji?
There are two ways to use shio koji: as a substitute for salt, or as a marinade.
If you want a smoother consistency, you can puree it in a blender. You can also dilute it with a little water to the desired consistency.
Using shio koji instead of salt
In cooking, shio koji is used to replace salt in recipes. Just as you would use soy sauce, you’ll enjoy adding it to broths or sauces to enhance the flavour. Shio koji can be added at the beginning of cooking or when seasoning.
Using shio koji in marinades
The magic of shio koji unfolds when used as a marinade, as time allows the enzymes to do their work.
As explained earlier, the different kinds of enzymes will transform the ingredients to make them more tender and flavourful.
Dehydrated koji will make a thicker shio koji, as it will absorb some of the water. If necessary, add a little water before use.
Use the same amount of koji in weight, whether fresh or dehydrated. Fresh koji contains more water but is also more active. Therefore, you can use the same amount.
Do I have to mix/crush the shio koji before using it?
No, it is not necessary to crush shio koji before using it.
Even when fermented, shio koji still contains semi-solid rice grains. These can be left intact or crushed in a blender to obtain a smooth texture. This is the best way to use shio koji in a salad dressing, for example!
Can you eat raw shio koji?
Shio koji can be eaten raw or cooked. Add it to your marinades or dressings! To enjoy the health benefits of the enzymes, do not heat shio koji above 40°C.
How long can I keep shio koji?
Shio koji can be stored in the fridge for over 6 months without any issues. Its concentration of salt and the fermentation process preserve it effectively.
Is shio koji good for my health?
Shio koji is a minimally processed product prepared with natural ingredients. It contains many enzymes that can help digestion. In addition, koji contains vitamins B1, B2, and B6. (ref)
Also, it can be used to replace salt or soy sauce in recipes, bringing more nuance to the flavours of a dish.