Japan has a long history of consuming fermented food. It is recorded that in the 8-century people were already eating pickles. They were marinating vegetables in salt. This later changed to marinating in vinegar, sake.
Why Japan has so many fermented foods?
The reason is the Japanese climate. The bacteria and mould that can be used for fermenting food that is safe for consumption only exist in Eastern Asia. The bacteria only live in warm and humid climates. European climates have lower humidity and are cooler which is why blue cheese and Camembert cheese are the only food that is fermented.
Japan is the only country to use Koji mould
Other eastern Asian countries have fermented food but Koji mould is only used in Japan for its climate. Koji mould likes to live in grains, so the koji mould reproduced on steamed rice is what rice koji is. (What rice koji does is explained in this blog)
Rice koji mixed with soybean paste becomes Miso, rice koji mixed with shochu spirit and mochi rice becomes mirin. Of course, rice koji is used in making soy sauce too! All these condiments are used in most Japanese dishes.
Also, there are other famous fermented foods from Japan. It is Natto! Natto bacteria live in rice plants. Boiled beans fermented with this natto bacteria create strings and that is why natto is sticky. The protein that is contained in the strings are called Nattokinase, and it has been used as a folk remedy for diseases of the heart and blood vessels for hundreds of years. (Learn about Natto in this blog)
Some Tsukemono pickles are fermented too. Have a look at our tsukemono selection here and try some!
Lots of tasty Japanese food are fermented! Without these bacteria, Japanese cuisine would be very different!