The practice of fermenting meat with koji is brand new – relative to koji’s ancient history – and that’s what makes it exciting. Many chefs are avid about the limitless potential of koji fermentation in modern cuisine. Trend-watchers are suggesting it will be a premier food trend of 2017, and we at Hyde Park Group agree. It’s healthy, it’s fast, it’s new, and it’s funky. What’s not to love?
So, what exactly is koji? Koji is a rice grain mixed with a live mold culture that has been used to make soy sauce, rice vinegar, sake, and miso soup for millennia. It creates a distinct savory and fermented flavor, also known as the famous umami. You’ll most often see cooked rice treated with koji, but many other foods are also treated with the mold to make specialty dishes.
Koji’s uses are numerous and multiplying. Chefs are using it in flavorings and marinades for its ability to add saltiness and umami flavor without the use of additional sugar, salt, or oil. Intriguingly, it also serves as a natural meat tenderizer – it can almost perfectly replicate the taste and texture of a 45-day dry aged steak with just 2 days in the fridge. A koji marinade works wonders on almost any meat or vegetable and operates at a much faster rate than normal marinades.
During fermentation, koji produces a number of amino acids and simple sugars that aid digestive health and gut flora, in addition to the umami-bestowing amino glutamate. The process of fermentation is also simple enough that home marination and fermentation are trending; all you need is a starter and some white rice. It’s sold at plenty of Asian markets and can be ordered online.