Aspergillus (koji 麹)

There are so many tasty and useful things you can make with koji. Simply put, koji is the agreed upon word that designates some type of starch such as rice or barley or beans that a very fragrant fungus is grown on. Mushrooms are also a type of fungus so don’t be put off by the word fungus. Anyway it’s actually a mold. Nevertheless this one, koji, not only smells seductive but is an enzymatic powerhouse.

Fermentation and preservation, specifically using koji, is the way hundreds of millions of people have survived for thousands of years. Koji is a very special fungus. Technically called Aspergillus oryzae or buy another one of it’s family members names like Aspergillus sojae koji has been domesticated to be a fiercely loyal pet.

Koji like all living things will turn on you if you disrespect or abuse it by forcing them into situations they don’t want to be in. Aspergillus can be flexible to a certain degree, at least the ones incapable of producing toxins that can make people, animals or their microbial neighbors sick, but even the domesticated ones can wreck havoc.

Koji can also die on you. No big deal? Well, if you’ve made a protein and taste packed 50 gallon vat of miso to get you through the winter when other sources of food are not readily available it is a big deal.

Not properly treating the things you make with koji can allow it to become contaminated with other nasty smelling, tasting and looking microbes that you can’t eat.

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But the things that had koji growing on them we used for their enzynes more than anything else. They not only preserved food and trasnformed it into stable commodities to eat during off season when things weren’t growing – May especially was a wrectched month for people that depended on the seasons – but they also made it nutritionally beter and improved the taste.

You an make alcohol from all types of koji, and condiments and koji and seasoning ingredients that last almost indefintely. So let’s make a quick use of this preparation called shio-koji. And some amasake, this really great sweet drink or sugar substitute made from the starches in rice or wherever they are contained.

The things that had koji growing on them we used for their enzynes more than anything else. They not only preserved food and transformed it into stable commodities to eat during off season when things weren’t growing – May especially was a wretched month for people that depended on the seasons – but they also made it nutritionally beter and improved the taste.

So, what’s an enzyme? Simply put it’s an essential tool that enables you to efficiently do anything. Without enzymes to cut up the things in the food you eat into tiny usable molecules you’d starve. Actually, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. Everything that takes paces in your body – including in your stomach – depends on very specific enzymes that have very precise, singular roles to play.

That means that if specific enzymes are only available from foods like koji, or that are made using koji, you probably should expect to gain some benefits from eating them in their active, live state. Of course you could try taking all different kinds of enzymes for digestion and to rid your body of overgrowth of a bad fungus, but doesn’t it make more sense to try to digestive and other health problems by getting your enzymes from the food you eat?

Here’s a description of what an enzyme is from a a book published in England in in Shio-koji, Amasake, and pickling and aging koji

Making Shio-Koji



Plus you. can make aalcohol from all types of koji, and condiments and koji and seasoning ingredients that last almost indefintely. So let’s make a quick use of this preparation called shio-koji. And some amasake, this really great sweet drink or sugar substitute made from the starches in rice or wherever they are contained. Stick around.

The Japanese, especially, have a word for every different type of koji, what the koji is grown on, what types of koji spores (called tane-koji or koji-kin) you use, and even the extent to which the mold penetrates into the center of the rice or whatever you are making the koji on.

  • This is japonica rice, the type most people typicaly can resource to make their own koji. The fatty, protein layer on the outside, including the germ, has been partially removed by milling. Unless you have very specific needs, this white rice meant for cooking and eating makes great koji.

Just to make things a little more confusing there are two very different ways to make something called koji that doesn’t even contain the same ingredients. Okay so when starting out keep it simple. We actually recommend the first thing you do is buy a really quality miso and start using it.

If you know what you are doing you can make koji from just about anything – what you make your koji on is called a substrate – then combine it with one or ore things like legumes or grains or tubers and make miso.

It can be easy, but again you can pretty easily buy alreay made koji online and often in health food or Asian food stores. It’s very easy to get online. That said, so are the spores to make your own koji. More different types of spores than you will ever need to know about. The important thing is to know how they should act in a controlled environment.