Chili with Koji and Beans



At tonight’s first #Zymes2020 event at Fifth Hammer Brewing we presented a chili made the typical way. A very small amount of ground beef was browned with onions, garlic, peppers, oregano, lime and other seasonings.

It doesn’t matter what your actual chili base is for this if you decide to make it, although some people do not like spicy foods. When preparing food for a crowd it is always a very considerate and professional thing to consider the preferences of a wide spectrum of people.

The place was packed. Actually the busiest we’ve ever seen it. The people attending the event truly appreciated the samples of food, as well as the unique condiments they could use to alter the taste of the chili to their liking.



A lot of people actually ate the condiments as if they were unrelated to the chili. That’s why you should always aim to prepare whatever it is you are making as if it is the main dish.

We brought ten things tonight that represented the ending of #Kojifest2019, and the beginning of #Zymes2020. We will be publishing recipes for everything we brought tonight.

On the one hand, it’s never a good idea to throw too many ingredients into a dish – and then describe all of them because their eyes will roll back in their heads after ingredient number five and your dialog will quickly become meaningless if not irritating – because one or more will likely not appeal to someone.

On the other hand if everything has so many ingredients and layers of flavor taste buds can get overwhelmed and senseless by the variety. Balance of tastes is important on the level of each dish, and to the extent that each dis contributes to the eating and tasting experience of a diner.

Like, seven different kinds of cake at every meal is not really tasty after a few meals. Would seven different types of wines for every meal be tasty after the first one or two meals? Be simple and let people choice things like condiments and drinks according to their preferences.

The home made doubanjiang (豆瓣酱) we brought was the hottest thing there. And untouched. That’s why condiments are so useful. In a previous post on mother sauces we explained that you can’t remove certain ingredients once you add them.

The chili would not have been so well received if we had added the doubanjiang to it during cooking or right before serving. Once again, that’s why it is so important to know your ingredients, know your techniques, know what has been done in the past, and remember that an artesan of any kind must take into account what others might like when preparing food or drink.



Tasty Functions

The purpose of everything we brought tonight was first and foremost to provide tasty things. The fact that some of our foods serve as functional foods by providing beneficial microbes, or by not providing discomforting or harmful ones, is always secondary.

Functional foods are important, but there are so many ways to get beneficial microbes into your body when eating fresh or unprocessed foods as all or just a part of your daily intake that you shouldn’t stress about it. In fact, condiments are another way to add live tasty foods to very simply prepared foods.



Functional Enzymes

The chili involves adding dried or freshly made barley koji, garbanzo bean koji, and wheat barley koji – the three made with different types of Aspergillus or a combinations of different types of spores – with salt and water to a meat or plant protein based already prepared chili.

Water or some liquid is important in facilitating the work of enzymes, as they involve hydrolysis. Hydrolysis is not possibly with water.

The unique thing about this chili, and much of which we spoke about, is how we prepared the dish to maximize the contribution of enzymes to the texture, taste and digestibility of the dish.



The Amasake Technique

If you have ever made amasake, typically a sweet rice based beverage or sugar substitute made with rice that has had Aspergillus oryzae grown in it, you know that it is made at a temperature of 140F for at least 12 hours.

If you are uncomfortable about controlling the temperature precisely aim for 135F. If we don’t actually grind our rice koji up first we usually make ours over a 24 hour period and add more water than typical recipes. Because of the sugars created during the process another cooking procedure with amasake tends to be risky if you are in a hurry.

A higher water content makes it less so. We find more water dissolves the added cooked rice as well as the koji rice more completely. Besides, if we have to remove some water we can always boil it down and make rice syrup.



During the process of making amasake the koji uses the enzymes to transform the food, prominently by splitting up starch molecules into simple sugars. That’s called saccharification.

Breaking big molecules or chains of sugar down into littler pieces can greatly aid in overall digestion, but also specifically make certain things digestible at all.

The enzymes that do this with starches that include cereal grains or anything that has carbohydrates in it such as legumes and some vegetables are amylase and gluycoamylase.

But those are not, by far, the only useful enzymes that are produced. Which enzymes and how much of each are produced was part of tonight’s event and will be continued in all 2020 events and posts at Cultures.Group.

In the case of the chili all the ingredients in it, just like the rice that had the fungus grown on it, become substrates.

Other enzymes like proteases – the wheat berries were grown with Aspergillus sojae and Aspergillus luchuensis that provide some of these – acted on the dish much like the amylase enzymes act on the rice. Proteins, fats and even cellulose got broken down into very simple, digestible units.

Esters and other olfactory benefits were produced as well.

We cooked the chili – which could easily have been made with a plant protein – at 140F for 36 hours, stirred it, added some more koji then cooked it for another 12 hours with some additional salt.

If we added even more salt and water we could have made a soy sauce type liquid out of it. Remember that.

It’s part of the koji continuum you’ll hear us talk about often. Remember reheating this on a direct flame can create amost instant singing and often burnt pots.

The more you can complete the dish during the fermentation process, just as with rice amasake, the less chance of that happening.



Recipes and Techniques

The dishes we brought were all, in one way or another, transformed by a filamentous fungus such as Aspergillus or Rhizopus as a substrate, or with the fungus grown onto a substrate. Yeasts and bacteria were also involved, and discussed at the event with respect to how they interact on a very specific level with particular strains and combinations of the fungus.

  • Three Koji, Three Filamentous Fungus Chili
  • Koji-cured Chicken Liver Mousse
  • Wheat and Fava Bean Koji Doubanjiang
  • Cashew Tempeh
  • Shiso and Koji vinegar
  • Aged Koji Kefir Cheese
  • Moromi miso
  • Three year old, thrice cooked Misodama
  • Corn shoyu kasu miso
  • Russian Sourdough bread
  • Ginger, Kombu, Garlic Betterazuke
  • Aged Plum and Barley Koji (A.awamori) Mirin
  • Fig, walnut, caramel, sweet plum, and wheat koji conserves

The first event of 2020 is on January 27th. The second is February 17th. Same time, same place, same presenters with new practical tips, guidance and practical ways to use enzymes from microbes or malt.

Thanks to everyone that helped to make tonight a really great nose, eye and palate pleasing event. Register at Eventbrite.


https://Cultures.Group

The Name of the Rose

Today is my birthday and I have a few things to say. Mostly everything I want to convey on this year’s birthday – September 15th – has all been said before in Nina Simone’s song “Feelin Good” At least the attitude part.

The recipe for this is actually already posted at culturesgroup.net

The semiotics or foodways start of a new year follows. As will the recipes that depend on understanding a few basic concepts. Although we haven’t yet introduced all of the misos, sauces, amino pastes, pickles, sakes, amasakes, kefirs, brews, yeast and bacteria centric items and baked goods and sweets that we’ve been making over the years, our corn rose miso has been very popular.

We only call it miso because the predecessor of all things made with koji is a word that has never been widely accepted in the English speaking world. Even the word koji is an inadequate translation of the predecessor to the what the original word for koji actually meant.

When the Japanese were gifted the knowledge of how to make and use koji – along with their first system of language – it was done by Chinese buddhists. The reason why so many people have seriously inaccurate ideas of where some things originated, or even that they have existed for thousands of years, is that the Chinese had no need to claim invention of anything.

The Japanese, however, kept repackaging and inventing while creating a hagiography of these things that were really just different versions of Chinese jiang, the predecessor even to the little fermented soybeans named shih or docuhi that many people insist are the actual precursor. Before koji there was jiang. Adding koji to jiang made it even better.

Ketchup and Worcestershire Sauce were derived from jiang, as were dozens of ither things such as miso and soy sauce and fish sauces and even preserved meats and game.

Nope

Sometimes the romanticized version of the past has worked well for the Japanese, and other countries to be sure, but other times it has failed miserably. Whoever though of the idea that foreigners would understand thus buy more Japanese sake by calling it rice wine should have been corrected.

The claim that they discovered or invented koji, or that it is endemic to only their country, is just not accurate. Still, the entire world should be extremely grateful to the Japanese for their efforts and inventions, especially Americans, because Japanese scientists including Dr.Takamine’s contributions to several industries in this country have been very significant.

麹 or 米糀 – Aspergillus and friends or pet Aspergillus

Millet koji.

But let’s start with the koji, or 麹, since it is what set everything off. 麹 really has little to do with the purified spores (tane-koji) that the Japanese have so brilliantly domesticated. When the Japanese think koji they mean 米糀 (rice koji or come-kouji) or sometimes another subspecies of Aspergillus (mold) grown on barley, millet, sweet potatoes or soybeans.

We’ll get to the Zygomycetes (Rhizopus, Mucor, Rhizomucor), yeasts and bacteria later, but even then it’s really rare that at some point in miso making or shoyu making and ocassionally even sake making they aren’t part of the process. Even if that just means avoiding them at all costs.

You should at least know these things exist. But we’ll try not to get too microbiologist on you unless it really matters.

Corn: Vinegar, Koji and Hamma Natto
Three corn kojis, three tastes (vinegar, koji, shih)

Su Jiang Rou or Shoyu what?

Many research papers, patent applications, books, journals, PhD theses and extant scrolls – as well as some pretty old oral communications – accurately document the development of mochi koji 麹. The stuff that seems to have taken hold in the minds of Westerners, at least, is bara koji, not mochi koji though.

We are actually partial to the bara koji, because as with sake and a whole lot of other food stuffs and beverages, the original sake was awful. Bara koji helps us to avoid that type of sake entirely. That said, Shanghai yeast balls or Chinese yeasts balls – way closer to the original mochi koji – can make some pretty amazing things.

Furthermore, modern day additives to sake that come from Aspergillus such as A.luchuensis or A. oryzaes and sometimes yeasts, bacteria or microbial enzymes should be welcomed as great things, especially if they help to avoid the industrialized unpalatable swill (増醸酒 ぞうじょうしゅ or Zojoshu) that is produced and consumed in Japan on a widespread basis.

Nukazuke (corn pickles made with corn nuka or bran). Thank you, Lactobacillus plantarum and friendly halophiles, for everything you do

Unblinded by Science

As I recently discussed at a recent meeting of culturesgroup, the invention of s16 rRna technology along with rapid advancements in other ways to quantify very precisely what bacteria and other microbes (yeasts, fungi, etc.) that populate the microbiome of any product have exploded the research into what microbes are in what we eat.

This is not all that new a thing, though, as the romanticizers of traditional methods keep trying to sell their goods. But industry and artesans can now either industrialize or individualize or do some of both when making something like soy sauce or amino sauces or sake with widely accessible ingredients.

Look to the Yeast

When I say there is actually only one thing that is ever created through any type of transformative process like using something to make koji from or add koji to or inoculate with a specific mold or fungus what I mean is that everything is on a continuum, a horizontal progression from ingredient to outcome.

The sokujo style method of making sake – basically just adding lactic acid derived from bacteria to avoid having to create it in what is called a shubo or moto in a time consuming and more expensive way – is almost exactly the same thing as making shoyu and even miso.

If you want to direct tastes or mormi develop look to the yeast. Sometimes, the water minerals or the bacteria, often cadged from a previous batch, do the trick as well.

Shiitake mushroom shoyu or soy sauce.

With the help of amazing new equipment with which we can measure a microbiome (as in the mkicrobiome of a vat of soy sauce) and it’s inhabitants down to the genetic level it makes clear how much respect the artesans that have been making these things for thousands of years deserve.

And this old world is a new world
And a bold world – Nina Simone, Feeling Good

Knowledge begets new customs and traditions. Don’t repeat history and not learn from the past. Using new tools and techniques, it’s time for new generations to experiment and create new foodways.

Not that we know everything we want to know yet. Just that it should be a fusion of the traditional and the modern, a sustainable and enlightened way of creating new foods and tastes.