koji: Gift from the Ancients
While the origin of koji fermentation is still unknown, it is believed that it was introduced to Japan from China along with rice cultivation during the Yayoi Period (1000 BC - AD 300). In the first Japanese literature mentioning koji in the early 8th century, it is described as "people offered dried cooked rice to gods and goddesses. When they saw mold grown on it, they brewed sake with it."
This mysterious mold was indeed a type of microorganisms, which we call koji bacteria, or Aspergillus Oryzae, today. Ubiquitous in rice fields, these invisible creatures have been with human for millennia, playing the crucial role in creating and developing umami-rich foods and drinks, such as soy sauce, miso, mirin, rice vinegar, sake, and Shio Koji. It is clear that traditional Japanese cuisine as we know today, which was registered as an UNESCO intangible cultural heritage in 2013, would not exist without these microorganisms.
Today, koji (fermented rice and grain with koji bacteria) is still a silent culinary giant no one seems to know but almost everyone is familiar with the savory deliciousness it creates. In recent years, however, a handful of chefs in the US and Europe started noticing this magical ingredient as a culinary instrument.
We are among the small yet slowly increasing number of independent koji makers in North America that produces Shio Koji (we are the first and the only commercially operating Shio Koji maker in New Jersey). We are enchanted by this ancient yet exciting seasoning that can enrich our everyday life with natural and clean ingredients, using only the help of nature. We believe that we are not the only one who believes in this millennia-long culinary innovation.