We have thousands of videos we want to share and hundreds of thousands of videos, but to what end? Information changes so quickly that trying to keep up with it prevents people from learning from each other, let alone even listening.
So, we’re going through them all and only posting the ones we think are useful now and in the next year at the very least.
If you have a specific question after you watch one of our videos or read one of our posts, please ask. We will distill your questions into compact, easy to understand posts and videos as best we can.
This video is about the role of water in chemical and other enzymatic reactions. In other words, knowing how to manipulate the water content of food on a macro or very microscopic level is the key to preserving food, fermenting food, cooking food or just preparing it to ingest it.
Hopefully, the videos will help you to see how we apply our knowledge of both science and cooking to create great tasting foods and beverages. The only thing you won’t learn about here is how to buy something we make or write.
1 1/2 pounds or 680 grams boneless chickens thighs or breasts cut into pieces
1/2 cup or 112 grams truffle shio-koji (or mince a truffle or dried mushroom into shio-koji)
Marinate the chicken in the truffle shio-koji for two hours. Add the ingredients below to the chicke and marinate again for 2 hours.
3/4 cup or 118 grams sake
1 egg or 56 grams
Rub the sake and egg into the chicken, blending it together with the truffle shio-koji. Marinate for another hour. Wipe off the chicken as best as you can into the bowl with marinade. Try to save ever last drop of the marinade.
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup or 184 grams all purpose flour or corn flour
1 tsp coarse sea salt
Oil for frying (about 4 cups)
Mix the baking powder, salt, and flour together. Add to the reserved marinade. It will be pretty thick at this point. Dip the chicken pieces in this and let them sit for as long as you like in the fridge. Or fry immediately. Try and get batter on each piece of chicken as you slide it into the heated oil.
Add the chicken a piece at a time while turning up the heat for just a few seconds until you get half of the chicken in the oil. You need to make this in two batches (or cut the recipe in half). After the first batch skim the oil well, removing any browned bits.
Make sure the pieces are not sticking to the pan. Shake the pan very gently or give them a little push with your tongs or chop sticks
These will cook and brown very fast so turn them over after two minutes at medium high heat. Then let them fry for another 2 minutes at best. Remove from the oil and let drain if you don’t serve them right away on a bowl of rice or another grain or mashed celery root (celeriac).
I typically have a second pan waiting to heat the oil up for a second batch, after I strain the oil through a very fine mesh strainer.
If you don’t serve this right away, or eat it all chill it overnight in the fridge and eat it cold with a truffle oil mayonnaise, or a simple mild vinegar based vinaigrette.
This is also a great way to make a fast chicken parmiggiano. Place whatever type of cheeses you like over the chicken – truffled cheese, mozzarella, parmesan or even Gruyere or Emmental heat in a 400F oven for 15 minutes.
Also, if you don’t have truffles or mushrooms, shred some perilla or shiso leaves into the shio koji before adding the sake and egg. You could also use milk kefir, buttermilk, chicken stock or cold miso soup instead of the sake. You could also use a light colored seitan or other plant protein – just don’t stew it in soy sauce – instead of the chicken.
We had a leftover, heavy cardboard box that was the perfect size for making rice koji in. We took a 5 pound bag of parboiled rice and rice it off very well. We then put it in a preheated 350F oven in a stainless steel container. The rice was well wrapped with foil to prevent dryness or steam escape.
As soon as we put the rice in the oven we turned it off and let the rice sit undisturbed for 12 hours. It easily fluffed up and was cooked but not at all mushy. We then added a teaspoon of Aspergillus oryzae (tane koji spores) and grew the koji out on the rice. We then made 3 different types of miso from the koji.
2 cups or 300 grams malted bread flour (or AP flour with barley)
2 TB or 26 grams shio koji (or 2 TB sweet miso or 1 TB salt)
3/4 cup or 75 grams raisins
1 cup or 275 grams milk kefir (or acid whey, whey or buttermilk)
1/2 cup or 130 grams water
Mix everything together well. It will be like a thick pancake batter. Refrigerate overnight or several days. Remove from refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Knead in the walnut flour, walnuts and brown sugar, then the baking soda and powder.
1 cup or 75 grams roasted, finely chopped walnuts (or more flour or another nut)
1 cup or 150 grams walnut flour (or bread or all purpose flour)
1/4 cup or 75 grams light brown sugar
2 tsp or 16 grams baking soda
1 tsp baking powder (optional, unless you are the unsure type)
Preheat oven to 375F. Plop the dough into the greased pan. Let it sit for a few minutes. Loosely score the top of the bread – if you can, others ignore it – in quarters and make one round loaf that you bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Check after 25 minutes with a digital probe or toothpick (200 F internal). Or, fill 24 muffin cups 1/2 full and bake 20 – 25 minutes.
We made this cake first with chopped up whole oranges with peel removed for better distribution made like betterazuke pickles. Those are the type of pickles usually layered with a whole lot of salt, sugar and koji. They are often aged for a long time. Let us know if you want to do that.
Otherwise, a hack just requires some pre-made rice koji. An even easier all purpose hack is bto use kasu (the dregs from making doboroku or sake) with salt.
The easiest thing of all would be to just use your favorite sake or liquid shio koji.
Whatever you decide to do, this is a really tasty, versatile and easy to make pound cake like treat with just a blender.
450 grams or 16 ounces cultured butter
2 TB shio-koji (salt koji or liquid shio koji)
294 grams or 2 cups organic coconut palm sugar
3 extra large or 200 grams of eggs
420 grams or 1 to 2 navel oranges, pureed.
1 TB lemon, orange, or vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 TB baking powder
486 grams or 3 cups flour
Liquid shio-koji can now be purchased online or from many Asian grocery stores. Our friends at The Japanese Pantry and at MTC Kitchen also sell it (and lots of other really cool ingredients). Check out your local Sunrise Mart near Brooklyn Kura if you are in the area.
There is really no difference between liquid shio-koji and the pastier version except for perhaps salt content and a little water. You can blend your butter with liquid shio koji and let it ferment for days or weeks in the refrigerator. You can do the same with the oranges, as we did for four weeks.
Let them ferment for as long as you like. Or not. It’s all good. You can also blend rice koji with water until a paste forms. Add more water and some salt and you have shio-koji. Keep it at 135F for 6 hours and you have the same exact shio-koji that people take weeks to make. The enzymatic activity is the same.
The salt reduces the amylase enzymes that digest sugar and increases the protease enzymes that like proteins. But it will still be a fleetingly sweet and savory marinade and all purpose condiment.
Again, you can always just take out your blender and make a thick paste of the wet ingredients and blend into the flour mix. Simplest, best cake ever.
The icing for this was originally made by creating an amasake type paste using tapioca starch and Aspergillus oryzae (koji) grown out on orange peels. Perhaps this is a new technique to you.
As I described this was recreated from the notes from researchers working with spent coffee grinds, cassava peels, fruit waste, peanuts, wheat bran, soybeans, ad other things that were of enormous interest then and now.
By then I mean in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We will be publishing a whole lot more on these things with recipes using a wide range of Aspergillus types as well as other filamentous fungus (like the ones used to make tempeh) we’ve been making since the 1970s.
Here is a really easy and very tasty way to make this very quickly just like your grandma did back then. We just finished filming a series of videos about making and using shio koji or salted rice koji, but you could also follow the old school way we describe here that most people still think is the way to make shio koji or just buy some from one of the many online or retail outlets that sell it. Either the liquid shiio-koji or the paste works as well.
2 TB fresh lemon or lime juice
1/2 cups or 56 grams confectioners sugar
1 tsp teaspoon liquid shio-koji
More confectioner’s sugar as desired if you want it thicker)
Whisk everything together really well. Either serve on the side of the cake when the cake is completely cooled down on a towel, or drizzle over the cake.
Blend together the pureed orange and egg base with the flour and soda. Bake at 350F for 45 to 50 minutes. Let the cake sit outside the oven for at least 30 minutes before removing from the pans. Let cool completely before icing. The icing is not required – you could just dust it with confectioner’s sugar – but it’s sweetness coupled with the orange zest and juice brings out layers of flavor in the cake.
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.
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.
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
Shiso and Koji vinegar
Aged Koji Kefir Cheese
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.