Shio koji is a popular Japanese condiment frequently used in marinades or as seasoning in Japanese cuisine. Its unique qualities make it an excellent ingredient for tenderising meat or firming up fresh fish prior to cooking, though it is also prized as a subtle (yet delicious) way to enhance the flavour of your food.
In this article, we’re going to discuss shio koji, including how it is made, how it is used, and what it can bring to your cooking.
Shio koji is a white, lumpy paste made by combining koji spores (sometimes written as kōji or kouji), water, rice and salt allowing them to ferment. The resulting product – shio koji – is rich in natural enzymes that work as powerful flavour enhancers for a wide variety of ingredients.
Shio koji is a natural seasoning and flavour enhancer. This pre-made shio koji is created using three core ingredients – rice koji, water, and salt – and is a healthy, versatile alternative to MSG. Use it as a marinade, meat tenderiser, or condiment, or stir it into soups, stews, and sauces for the ultimate umami taste.
This ready-made shio koji is the perfect way to get all those rich umami flavours out of your food when cooking. The koji attaches itself to starch and protein, breaking them down and releasing complex sugars and amino acids, giving meat and fish a delicious savoury-sweetness while also acting as a natural tenderiser.
Rice koji is an essential component in Japanese cuisine, often used as to create a variety of key ingredients. As the name implies, it is rice infused with koji mould. This helps kickstart the fermentation process if you want to make your own shio koji from scratch, and for making miso and sake.
If you have the time and the equipment, you can make shio koji at home with just a handful of ingredients. You need koji rice (that’s rice grains mixed with the kōji bacteria aspergillus oryzae), fine sea salt, and mineral water. You might see koji rice labelled as rice koji in some stores – don’t worry: it’s the same thing. You will also need a sterilised jar into which you can mix these ingredients and set them aside to ferment for 24hrs at 56deg C. If that sounds like too much hassle, you can buy ready-made shio koji from our online store.
Regular shio koji has a subtle taste, combining the salty, umami flavour of soy sauce with some sweet, floral notes from the kōji bacteria. It’s a delicious and healthy alternative to salt, but really comes into its own as a flavour enhancer for other ingredients. You can make your shio koji more flavorful by adding garlic, onion, or lemon during the fermentation process.
Shio koji is a versatile condiment, frequently used as a marinade, a pickling medium, and a form of seasoning:
Shio koji is a fermented product and, when utilised as a marinade, the koji spores break down the enzymes and convert proteins and starches into complex sugars and amino acids which bring out natural sweetness and umami. Conversely, when used to marinate fish, it draws out some of the moisture, leaving the flesh firmer and less likely to break apart when being pan-fried. Both processes release the natural flavours of the meat or fish, creating a more succulent dish, but other ingredients can be added to impart different tastes to the meal.
Shio koji works well (and quickly) as a pickling medium. You can pickle vegetables like cucumbers or daikon in shio koji and have them ready for eating within 24 hours! Just be sure to wipe away the shio koji for the best pickle experience. You can even cover hard-boiled eggs in shio koji for up to a week to get a Japanese-inspired version of the classic British pickled egg.
You can mix shio koji directly into soups and sauces as a seasoning. The complex umami flavours make it an interesting and healthy alternative to salt. You can even forgo the lumpiness of the ingredient by putting it through a blender first until it is smooth. Alternatively, you bypass that step by purchasing a bottle of liquid koji, which retains all those subtle, savoury flavour notes.
Tobaya is a Japanese vinegar producer that has been in business for over 300 years. They use traditional methods to produce their vinegars, using only the highest quality ingredients and carefully controlling the fermentation process to ensure the best flavour and quality.