Western Food Goes Mouldy and its .... Good!

GAtherton's picture

Western cooking has for many centuries used fermentation to make breads rise and drink alcoholic. Eastern cuisine has for many centuries also used fermentation to produce tasty foods and alcoholic drinks but whereas the former uses yeasts the latter uses a different fungus - a species of Aspergillus referred to as Koji and is in fact a highly domesticated and harmless Aspergillus oryzae strain that is widely distributed across several countries and has been in use for over 9000 years. In the west we are pretty limited in our willingness to taste these foods and the only widespread examples seem to be Sake and Soy sauce and even those products tend to be sold as non-fermented versions.

Koji isn't only used for turning starches in to alcohol however, it is widely used to change in improve the flavour of many foods adding the taste umami to meat, broths and fish.

According to this article the reluctance of the west to fully accept the use of A. oryzae in food is fading. Chefs in the US have started to use this new flavouring technique in new ways.

Quoting from the article (which has an accompanying audio broadcast covering these issues and many more)

Recently, a small handful of American chefs have discovered koji’s superpowers, and are using it to aerate whole-grain bread, transform kitchen scraps into complex sauces, re-invent fried chicken, and even cure meat. Listen in now to find out why koji seems to turn everyone it meets into obsessives, how its journey from East to West involves whiskey, arson, and cherry blossoms, and why it might just be next big thing in American cuisine. You heard it here first!