Could shio koji – described as the “new kid on the block” by Iceland’s head of development Neil Nugent – be the next big ingredient?
Iceland is working with the fermented salt replacement as a new way to season food.
“I’m always searching for flavour and techniques to get flavour, especially as people associate flavour with salt, but salt targets are tricky,” he said, in an episode of the Food Busker on YouTube.
It can not only be used to replace salt, but apparently adds so much more as salt can be quite a flat-lined flavour, while shio koji adds depth.
In the YouTube video, shio koji is used to make a marinade that includes soy sauce, ginger, garlic, miso powder and a squeeze of lime, which is applied to some sea bass.
So what’s the secret to shio koji?
Salt substitute and seasoning
Used in Japan for centuries, shio koji has seen a foodie renaissance in recent years thanks to the increased interest in fermented foods. It’s a traditional way to use koji, the ancient mother mould that creates soy sauce, miso, fermented bean paste and sake.
And how is it made? By combining rice koji with salt and water. The mixture is then left to ferment for a week, allowing it to develop a sweet, fruity, slightly funky aroma.
Shio koji has some pretty interesting effects on food too. The enzymes inside it break down proteins to pull out umami flavours; this process also contributes to tenderising meat. Additionally, the enzymes decompose starches to draw out sweetness.
The ingredient is very versatile. Depending on the fermentation time and the amount of water, it can mature in different forms and textures, including purees, pastes, near-solids or even powders, as well as liquids.
But enough of the science, what about using it on food? Well, it can act as a marinade for meat and fish; it can be added as a sauce, used for pickling or simply enjoyed as a finishing touch.
It can also be an all-important salt substitute, as two teaspoons of shio koji are the equivalent of a teaspoon of salt.
Currently, it’s available in the UK from places like London’s Japan Centre through to online stores like Sous Chef.
So is Sparkie salivating for some shio koji?
There is a massive wave of pickling in misos going on, which give this massive depth of flavour and umami. But this new ingredient, shio koji, is like a cultured rice condiment – and is simply amazing. The depth of flavour is incredible.
As its cultured and fermented, the amount of salt is massively reduced compared to using plain salt.
A big bonus is its gluten-free, which sets it apart from miso. Miso generally has gluten in some form coming from wheat within the process, but shio koji is malted rice, salt and water.
I think this will definitely be used as a marinade and I think it will be a big thing.