I’ve been hearing a lot about shio koji — an ingredient that has become a hot commodity in Japan among home cooks who want to give their food an umami boost without resorting to MSG. When I saw a bottle in an Asian market recently I snapped it up.
If you’re a student of booze, you’ll know that koji is rice that has been inoculated with the mold Aspergillus oryzae, which is used to ferment sake, shochu and Korean maekgeolli.
But here it is combined with salt (shio) to make a kind of lumpy, off-white seasoning paste. I used it as a marinade for a side of coho salmon that I bought from those nice Alaskans who’ve been showing up at local farmers market. (Sorry, folks, lost the card.)
I added a few slivered shallots and some lemon juice and ran the salmon under the broiler. Pretty delish.
Japanese cooks use shio koji in any number of recipes, including quick pickles and marinades.
The Los Angeles Times has a great story from its excellent food explorer, Betty Hallock. According to the story, shio koji makes for fine secret ingredient in hamburgers.
If you’re as obsessed with umami as I am, get you some.
Would you like another fun, funky, in-your-face flavor? Then hasten to Bhojanic in Buckhead or Decatur and try the nimbu pani cocktail — a version of the popular Indian spiced lemonade made hi-test with the addition of Bombay Sapphire gin. The bartender sprinkles the surface with a mixture of cumin and black salt, which has a sulfurous smell. It takes some getting used to, but somehow turns this sweet beverage from borderline cloying to utterly refreshing. Bottoms up.
- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog