I'd been reading about what an amazing flavor enhancer Shio Koji was for a couple of years. Apparently it really delivers that "sixth flavor". This fermented product made is from rice, inoculated with aspergillus oryzae, a "domesticated mold" used in the making of sake, miso, and other products, with salt added. The enzymes in shio koji; proteases,breaks down the proteins to amino acids, of which glutamate, has a major part of delivering the "umami", lipase breaks down fats, and amylase, which breaks down starches into simple sugar. There's apparently a lot going on here.....
So naturally, when I saw something marinated in Shio Koji on a menu, I couldn't help but order it, which turned out to be a terrible mistake. It left me disappointed and let's be frank, kind of pissed off.
How could something that has been raved about in Japan over the last couple of years be so....well....weak? So on one of our trips to Nijiya, I bought a bottle. The Missus thought I was nuts. This mildly grainy, gluey substance did what?
It does taste like salty, crude, rice wine.......the stuff you'd make in a jail cell......
I went in blind and decided to grill some chicken wings......
Here's the first recipe:
1 1/2 pounds chicken wings
1 cup Shio Koji
1 Tb Garlic Powder
1 tsp ginger juice
I marinated about 6 hours, then grilled.
One thing for sure......this thing will burn quickly if you're not careful. The wings were really tender, the skin actually got somewhat crispy, the flavor was good. A flavor like mild miso marinade, so complex, perhaps a tad too salty......I went overboard with the shio koji....but as salty as it seemed, we weren't bothered with any of the effects of too much sodium. It could have been sweeter, but man....we were hooked!
The Missus wanted me to do this again....the next day! This time I wanted a more well rounded flavor, without drowning out all the wonderful "umami" from shio koji....which is pretty hard to do. So here's the marinade for the same 1 1/2 pounds of chicken wings. Marinaded overnight.
1/3 cup shio koji
1 Tb grated garlic
1 Tb ginger juice
3 Tb mirin
1 Tb hoisin
This time, we decided to really push our luck and grill over bincho!
I should mentioned that I don't put togarashi in the marinade. I sprinkle it on right before grilling. Man, this stuff goes really fast and I had to be on top of it. In the end, there was some char....which by the way, is delici-yoso....
Other than having to really be on top of the grilling, this stuff is a total no-brainer......
After our first foray into wings, I went to look for other uses and told the Missus that folks are using shio koji for salad dressing, and you know what, the Missus really got into it.
It does make a really good dressing, with balsamic vinegar, sesame oil, and I don't know what else the Missus puts into the salad. I hate fruits in my salads; but man, the strawberries are really wonderful in this....even the chia seeds! Sorry to say, the Missus can't even tell me portions and such......otherwise I'd give you a recipe. But we had salads three days in a row......
Why isn't everyone using this?
I guess the next step for us is to make our own shio koji, right?