The essential seasonings for Japanese cooking are soy sauce, miso, sake, rice vinegar and mirin. They are all fermented products and Japan is one of the world's major producer of fermented products. The Warm climate and high humidity in Japan is an ideal environment for the fermentation process. Japan’s history is vast regarding the fermentation and preservation of food during its long winters and hot summers. Western style food fermentation includes yoghurt and cheese. However, the most distinctive ingredient for fermented products for the Japanese is "Koji."
Koji is a cultured product produced from steamed rice, wheat or soybean. The Ingredients incubation occurs with a fermentation culture called Koji-kin (Koji mold). Rice-Koji is used for making sake, rice-miso, mirin and vinegar. Wheat-Koji is a key addition for making distilled spirits and wheat-miso.
Koji contains many kinds of enzymes. Enzymes help digestion, absorption, and turning absorbed nutrition into energy. Koji helps strengthen the immune system and improve the intestinal environment. During the fermentation of Koji, nutritional value is dramatically increased and a tasty flavor is nurtured known as Umami. Meat gets softer by marinating it into salt-Koji.
By combining steamed soybean and roasted wheat, incubation transpires with Koji mold producing soy-Koji to make soy sauce. There are quite a few types of soy sauces in Japan. Common sauce, light color, tamari, re-fermented and extra light color. The most widely used is common soy sauce derived by a 50% combination of soybean and wheat. Used in soups and stews the light color sauce contains a slightly higher amount of salt to make the fermentation process more gradual, creating a lighter color with less fragrance. Tamari, often labelled as gluten free soy sauce is produced without wheat and it makes a flavorsome seasoning used for raw fish.
Miso varies in flavor and in color within different regions in Japan. Mixing up the ratio, fermentation and aging process will create a variety of diverse miso flavors. Mixing soybeans with Koji produces miso. The mixing ratio of Koji and soybeans changes the taste. The more Koji that is used, the sweeter the taste. There are three main color ranges associated with miso; white, light beige and red. The difference in the color is the result of a reaction caused by protein, sugar in soybeans and Koji during the fermentation process. The longer the maturing process, the darker the miso result will be.
Koji is essential for Japanese cuisine. These fermented products are dynamic and indeed, strongly recommended to try as a new food experience.
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