Posts Tagged ‘sake’

Koji – A Magic Ingredient


The term “Koji” can refer to the “Koji-kin” fungus which is sprinkled onto rice and propagated or the resulting “Koji-mai” the “Koji rice” which is the resulting saccharified rice from this propagation as the fungus breaks down the starches in the rice into the smaller sugars.  Its technical name is “Aspergillus Oryzae”.

Nowadays, in the West, the term “Koji” tends to refer to the Koji rice and it is fast becoming the latest new and exciting ingredient in top restaurants.

So, what is Koji rice and why is it such an interesting ingredient?

Traditionally, Koji rice is the first stage in the fermentation process to make four of the main, traditional Japanese condiments used in cooking; miso, soya sauce, sake and vinegar.  It is added to other ingredients for a second stage of fermentation; soya beans and salt to make miso; roasted wheat, soya beans, salt and water to make soya sauce; steamed rice, water and yeast to make sake.

Koji is a micro-organism that creates enzymes which transform the flavour and texture of food creating fermentation.  It creates the enzymes responsible for umami, the fifth taste which has been described as savouriness and deliciousness.

In Japan, Koji rice is used to make home-made miso, Amazake (a sweet rice drink), Shio-koji pickles and more recently to make roasted Koji tea which has lovely caramel aromatics.  In non-Japanese cuisine, Koji rice has been used to cure meat increasing the umami content, in ice cream, bread, a parmesan style ricotta and to make butternut squash miso.  Furthermore, meat and fish are marinated with Shio-koji (a salted Koji rice paste) and Amazake.

In Japan, Koji is revered due to its ability to create umami and the traditional condiments without which Japanese cuisine would not take the form it currently has.  12 October has been named as National Koji Day and there is even a very popular Koji manga character called “Moyashimon”.

During my research into koji I came across this podcast on Koji from the US which may be of interest.



Harpers Wine & Spirits article on sake

Anne Krebiehl wrote an article about the potential for future sake sales in the UK this week in Harpers Wine & Spirits.  She explained how there are a number of people working hard in the industry to guide customers in the selection of sake.  Alongside Ayako Watanabe of Saki Bar and Food Emporium, I was interviewed as a case study for the article.

Harpers 16 July 2010 – Sake

Harpers 16 July 2010 – Sake 2

Harpers 16 July 2010 – Sake 3

Anthony Rose writes about Sake and Indian Food

Anthony Rose wrote about Sake and Indian Food in the Independent Magazine today and how well cold sake works with Indian food.

The write-up is in reference to the Sake Tasting Dinner which I hosted at Moti Mahal on 27 May 2010.

He picked up on three of the sake presented, Aki no Ta, Fukurokuju Junmai and Yoikigen Daiginjo (which is unfortunately misspelt).

The Sake Tasting menu at Moti Mahal is only available until 31 July.

International Wine Challenge 2010 – Sake Results

It is always very interesting to see the results of the IWC’s annual sake tastings as I believe it demonstrates a guide to which sake suit the British palate the best.  The category which had by far the most medals awarded was the Junmai Ginjo and Junmai Daiginjo section; the western palate having a preference for more aromatic sake while still appreciating a depth of flavour which you get in the Junmai sake.

The results can be found on their website –  Select “sake” under the “style” category, the medal and then search.  If you want a full list of medal winners contact me at and I can forward the one I have received from the IWC.

One of the biggest achievements of the IWC is the continuous growth of entries in the sake section demonstrating the commitment of brewers to export sake overseas.

Sake in The Independent

It’s always nice to find an article on sake in the British Press as this delicious beverage does not get the coverage it deserves.  There is an article in The Independent from last Wednesday reporting on a large Sake Fair of 450 sake in Japan taking place tomorrow – wish I was there but will be presenting two honjozo at the Japanese Embassy in the UK tomorrow instead at a small sake tasting courtesy of the Sake Samurai.

Read the whole “Sake is hot, even when served cold” article here.

Philip Harper, Master Sake Brewer

For those of you who have never heard of him, Philip Harper is the only non-Japanese Master Sake Brewer.  This is a considerable feat which has meant he has not only had to master sake brewing but has had to master the Japanese language and the culture too in order to gain acceptance.  He has recently been filmed by NHK (one of Japan’s major broadcasting channels) and this has been posted online – the wonders of modern technology!

He is also one of the Directors of the British Sake Association and has written two very informative books about sake – The Insider’s Guide to Sake and The Book of Sake: A Connoisseur’s Guide.

In looking for the links to his books I have also come across a recent newspaper article about him in the Los Angeles Times which you may be interested in.

Being interviewed for Harpers Wine & Spirit

Amakarapin in the Japan Centre

I have just been interviewed by Anne Krebiehl for an article on sake for Harpers Wine & Spirit.  She asked me to meet her in the Japan Centre where there are several of the sake I import on sale.  We were also joined by Torisawa-san who is in charge of sake purchasing and marketing in the Japan Centre.  He explained how the Japan Centre sells between 30 and 40 bottles of sake a day which reflects his efforts in promoting sake.  At present, there is a display of Honjōzō with information about what makes a Honjōzō.

The article is based on sake in the UK with Anne interviewing many people well-known in the sake world such as Sayaka Watanabe (Zuma), Kumiko Tamba (Umu) and Ayako Watanabe (Sake Bar and Food Emporium).  She is kindly including me as one of the few non-Japanese working to improve sake knowledge and awareness in London.  The article is due to be published in July.