Koji mixed with water and salt is called Shio-koji. Shio-koji has been used as a pickling base for about 350 years in Japan. Suddenly this Shio-koji was named “Miracle Seasoning” and used by every cooks from professional to avocational kitchens across Japan. I was introduced to Shio-Koji seasoning by Chef Jiro at Aburiya Kinnosuke, NY City. Since then, I made my own batch and am digging it deeper. The other day I have marinated chicken breast (no skin) for 2 hours or so and cooked it in the skillet. The resulting chicken was juicy, moist (it is like cooking over Bincho-tan) with slight sweetness from koji. Shio-koji contains enzymes – protease, lipase and amylase. So it is the perfect tenderizer. I have also tried the shio-koji for duck breast. I was going to make a kind of ham….I need more experiments. I will blog how to make Shio-koji shortly. As home made amazake has the real flavor and health benefits compared to the commercially produces, does Shio-koji.
Archive for May, 2012
Bad food is good for you: By Katherine Tallmadge was very interesting article. Gluten is a culprit today. I respect the fact that about 1 percent of the population who cannot tolerate gluten and they must remove it from their diet. But so many others have joined the same camp. As Katherine says “wheat is a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and the people who claimed loosing weight on gluten free diet is simply they did so because they passed the sweets and snack foods which are loaded with high calorie.” Now more and more gluten free desserts are available in the market. It is interesting for me to see if these dessert will become the cause of weight gain again. When it comes to eggs Katherine says that “the Japanese are some of the biggest egg eaters in the world, but the Japanese have low cholesterol and heart disease rates. This is because our diet is low in saturated fat.” Eggs are not served in Japan with high cholesterol sausage and bacon, and or are not cooked with lots of butter and cream for omelet and quiche. How about soy, which was also chosen as one of the 7 bad foods? In Japan we have been consuming soy bean based fermented products and tofu products for long years, but have one of the lowest breast cancer rates.
All food which we consume are good to our health when consumed properly and in proper portion. Selecting 7 good ingredients or 7 bad ingredients and indulging or starving on these selected items causes imbalance in our physical and mental well-being. I strongly believes that every food is made equal by the nature god. We should not discriminate them and should not torture their natural assets.
Here are the home made amazake stored in a jar and amazake strawberry coctail which I have created for my birthday. You can replace the umeshu (plum wine) with fruity, sweeter tasting sake. For non-alcoholi drink add more strawberries and omit alcohol. 2 servings
3 tablespoons umeshu (home-made plum wine)
3 ounces strawberry
1/2 teaspoon sugar (adjust the volume depending on the sweetness of the strawberry)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 cup (Japanese rice cooker cup) medium- or short-grain brown rice
5 cups (Japanese rice cooker cup) water
7 ounces dry innoculated koji rice*
Cook the brown rice in the rice cooker using porridge function. Cool the cooked rice porridge to 140F. Transfer the cooked rice to the juicer mixer, add the innoculated koji rice and process. When you are using polished white rice, omit this blending process. Transfer the rice and koji mixture to a ceramic bowl, cover the pot with a clean kitchen towel and keep the mixture at 130F for 10 hours. I have used the rice cooker to keep the mixture at constant, right temperature using the rice cooker’s Keep Warm function. After 10 hours transfer the mixture to a clean container and quickly cool it in a ice cold bath. Taste the amazake! It is naturally fragrant sweet. Cover the container with a fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. It will keep fresh for one week in the refrigerator, or freeze for later use. You can make a super drink by diluting the amazake with cold water in 1 : 2 to 1 : 3 ratio. You can squeeze in lemon juice or ginger juice.
I am now researching about koji a lot. Koji is Aspergillus oryzae. It is a fungus and used in Japanese traditional food production such as shoyu, miso, mirin, rice vinegar and sake. The popular drink associated with koji is “amazake”. The direct translation is “sweet” “sake”, but it is not an alcohol drink. I have been always unhappy with store bought amazake at Japanese food store in USA since it was too sweet..could be artificially prepared. Just a couple of days ago I found an easy-to-prepare amazake recipe. The result was delicious drink which I enjoyed enormously. It is said that amazake was once a popular super drink consumed by commoners in the city of Edo (present Tokyo) during Edo period (1600-1868). Amazake is packed with natural sugar, essential amino acids and vitamins.
Let me talk a little bit more about food in Fukuoka prefecture. Fukuoka city is known as the city of Yatai, street food vendors. Sushi, tempura, soba, ramen, curry rice,….all started at the hand of street food venders in Japan. Street food venders are popular scene when we travel through South East Asia today, but in Japan they have become rare. After the World War II central and local governments drove street food venders into inside establishments – restaurants – in order to control hygiene standard. The exception was Fukuoka city. The government allowed the vendors to stay operating. Though today the number of street food vendors in Fukuoka city has dramatically decreased compared to the peak time, there are still about two hundreds vendors remain. On my visit to the city 4 years ago I tried several of them. Many venders carry ramen noodles, but each of them boasts their own special flavor of the broth and texture of the noodles. In addition to ramen dish vendors carry intestine hot pot, okonomiyaki panckake, yakitori, curry rice, tempura and/or oden stew. Here are some of the names of the yatai food vendors for your visit to Fukuoka city. Kenzo, Nagahama Ramen Tomochan, Kiryu, Naochan, Tenichi, Kitaro. Also, do not forget to check Ebichan, which is a Yatai cocktail bar! Father and son team donned in a crisp white shirt and bow tie makes varieties of cocktails on order.
Here is what we enjoyed tonight – pork belly hot pot. First prepare the sauce: In a food processor or juicer mixer add 1/4 cup white sesame seeds, 1/4 cup shoyu, 1/4 cup sake, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon toban jiang and 1 to 2 teaspoons ginger juice. Process the mixture until smooth. Transfer the sauce to a clean jar and cover with a plastic wrap. You can make the sauce 2 to 3 days in advance. The flavor gets better.
Hakata Tonton uses mung bean sprouts, but finding good quality bean sprouts is a difficult mission to accomplish, so I purchased hakusai cabbage (Napa cabbage; this cabbage has good amount of natural glutamate) for the replacement. You need 8 to 9 ounces shredded Napa cabbage and about equal weight of pork belly. This is for 2 servings. Ask your butcher to slice the pork belly (like a slice of bacon). Or, after purchasing freeze the meat in your freezer for 1 hour or so, and when the meat is firm, cut it into paper thin slices. Additionally you need 2 to 3 scallions, sliced thin crosswise and grated ginger (about 1 tablespoon).
In a shallow pot (10 to 12 inch in diameter) add 1 cup dashi stock (I have added some salt and shoyu) or chicken stock. Add the shredded cabbage and cover the bottom of the pot evenly. Arrange the sliced pork belly over the cabbage evenly. Add the sliced scallions and grated ginger in the center. Put the shallow pot over a stove top and loosely cover it with a paper lid. Turn the heat to medium and cook the vegetables and pork belly for 12 to 15 minutes. Be careful not to burn the paper lid! Remove the shallow pot from the heat and carefully bring it to the table. Transfer small portion of the vegetables and pork from the pot at one time into individual serving bowls. Pour the sauce (1 tablespoonful at a time) over the vegetables and pork and enjoy. Repeat the process until you finish all of the vegetables and pork in the pot. At the end you find the delicious left-over cooking liquid in the pot. I added 2 cups cooked faro to the pot with a tablespoon sauce and cooked the faro until all the liquid is almost absorbed. Then, I added lots of ground black sesame seeds to the faro. It was a delicious finish!
Even though Hakata Tonton specializes pork, many of which uses pork belly and pork knuckles, the meat is prepared and served in the Japanese way – with plenty of vegetables and very little or no added oil. Everyone leaves the restaurant with satisfied stomach, but not stuffed with heavy, greasy meal. The photo is one of the must-order pork nabe, hot pot, dishes. Thinly sliced pork belly (look at the beautiful, very fresh color of the meat) are placed on top of mound of moyashi, mung bean sprouts (they are also very crisp fresh and properly cleaned; these sprouts spoil quickly) in a shallow cooking pot. There is little stock is added to the very bottom of the pot. The pot is carried to each table like this, being covered with a paper lid, which is then placed on a table top burner. While the hot pot was cooking, we savored pork knuckles (grilled and basted with yuzu kosho) and fried oysters over beer, wine and sake (we did a toast with a glass of beer at the beginning of our meal – this is a Japanese ritual). We transferred a portion of cooked pork belly and mung bean sprouts to our individual bowls and enjoyed them with a slightly spicy special sauce. Spiciness came from Szechwan peppercorn. I will recreate this dish at home sometime soon, then will post the recipe.
I had additional great meal at Hakata Tonton two nights ago. Hakata Tonton is a casual Japanese restaurant in West village where chef Koji Hagiwara serves up delicious pork dishes (there are, of course, non-pork dishes, including sashimi), including must-try hot pot dishes (all pork). The menu at Hakata Tonton is extensive. In order to enjoy all of the items on the menu you need to make many trips. Even after ten or so visits I never got bored or tired with his meal. After each meal I rather am already thinking of when to come back next. A chat with Chef Koji revealed that he has just celebrated 5 years at Hakata Tonton. Chef Koji was brought in as an executive chef for Chef Yuji Wakiya’s fancy, modern Chinese restaurant at the Gramercy Park Hotel in Chelsea. After the failure and closure of this Japanised Chinese restaurant (whose concept is highly appreciated in Japan, though), he moved on and has been shining at Hakata Tonton.
The name of the restaurant, Hakata Tonton. Hakata is the name of the ward in Fukuoka City, a capital city of Fukuoka Prefecture, a northern shore of the Kyushu Island of Japan. Kyushu island is known for good quality pork. Because of its geography – close to Korea and China – , since early times, the island received strong culinary influence from its neighbor, China, where pork is one of the primary, favored ingredients. Ton means pig in Japanese. Tonton is a repetition of pig.