SHIO KOJI: The Natural umami enhancer
Shio Koji is an ancient Japanese umami seasoning. Umami, sometimes characterized as the 5th taste, gives a savory taste to food and is prized by chefs for its ability to bring out the richness. Made of fermented rice (koji), salt, and water, Shio Koji was long forgotten to history and was recently rediscovered from a 17th-century culinary encyclopedia only a decade ago. Ever since its re-introduction to the modern day kitchen, it has been a "cultural" sensation among professional and domestic chefs in Japan and around the world.
Shio Koji belongs to a culinary family of Japanese fermented foods and drinks such as soy sauce, miso, mirin, rice vinegar and sake, which are all made with koji-cultured rice and grains. It is believed that the rich enzymes created from koji are the key to the deep umami of these foods and drinks.
Shio Koji is most commonly used as a lower-sodium alternative for salt in cooking, but it also instantly adds depth of umami in the food you cook. Unlike miso and soy sauce, Shio Koji does not have a bold flavor profile. As a result, it can add umami into any type of cuisine, complementing and even enhancing the flavor of the dish.
Another popular application of Shio Koji is as marinade. When you marinade any type of protein (meat, poultry, fish and even tofu!), the natural enzymes of Shio Koji break down the protein, making them juicy and tender. It also helps intensify umami of the protein by releasing its amino acids to your taste buds.