The Koji Files part 2
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to take a class down in Boston. The double session workshop was led by Rich of Our Cook Quest and crew over at Commonwealth Cambridge. The focus of the day was a crazy cool mold called koji and how to apply it outside of its traditional preparations. It's been years since I took part in a class, so I was very excited to take a little trip and learn more about this ingredient that has been on my mind for the past few years.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, koji is the name for the living mold, Aspergillus oryzae, which is most commonly used to create miso, soy sauce, and sake. In recent years, chefs around the country have been utilizing koji beyond traditional means. As of late, I'm seeing chefs use animal proteins instead of rice as the growing medium for this mold. Mimicking dry aged beef in just a few weeks, or naturally breading chicken with an edible mold sounds intriguing, right?
With just over an hour drive south, I popped in an insanely motivating and inspiring podcast from the Joe Rogan Experience with all-around badass David Goggins. While this interview has nothing to do with fermentation, it is truly motivating and worth the listen.
The morning session started out with an interesting ketchup of sorts featuring soy sauce as the primary seasoning. The end result was an umami-packed almost bbq sauce that would be delicious on various cuts of meat. As the demos continued, we were able to taste a variety of ingredients before starting a batch of black bean soy sauce to take home and ferment ourselves. With 6 months needed to complete the process, I'll be looking at summertime before I get to work with my creation.
It was really nice to connect with some of the folks there and share our experiences around fermentation. Lunch was served and featured General Gao Gyro with Tsukemono Tzatziki and a Greek Salad - Quick Soy Pickled Cucumbers, Bettarazuke Beets & Smoked Feta Miso Dressing. It may be a handful to pronounce but it was quite delicious and perfect with the Jasmine amazake that was served alongside the meal.
Once lunch was over, the afternoon session kicked in with the goods. Chef Rich went through the process of creating koji rice at home, which was the info I was really looking for. Until now, I have always relied on buying in my inoculated rice, but as he shared, it's the homemade version that really creates a better product in the end. After learning how to set up the inoculations chambers at home, we broke up into groups again to start batches of shio koji, which once completed, makes an amazing marinade for fish, meat, and even vegetables.
I left really inspired and ready to start putting these newly learned skills into action. I jumped back into my car, listened to the remaining JRE podcast and headed home. Now the wait begins....