In this week’s REAL Podcast, episode 23 brought to you as always by REAL, purveyors of award-winning non-alcoholic sparkling wines, we’re looking at a mind-blowing new book called Koji Alchemy – a gorgeous chunk of coffee-table loveliness, perfect for curling yourself up next to an autumn fireplace with, and devouring over a chilled glass of REAL Kombucha. We’ll be chatting with the co-authors, Rich Shih – an explorer of miso and koji, as well as being an in-demand food preservation consultant, and Jeremy Umansky – owner and chef of Larder, a restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio that was nominated as the Best New Restaurant in America, 2019.
What is koji?
The subject under investigation in their book, and in this podcast, is koji – the microbe behind the delicious, umami flavours of soy sauce, miso and mirin. Like so many of these k-word foods and drinks – kombucha, kefir, kimchi, koji – there’s so much more to be discovered when you start digging beneath the initial flavour. As the guys explain, koji has the potential to be more than a mouth-watering flavour enhancer (koji and umami foods pair wonderfully with our own Royal Flush). Its application in food preparation can speed up the curing of meats and the ageing of cheeses, and their investigations have shown that it may even help with cutting down on food waste at an industrial level. The term “superfood” takes on a bunch of new levels when it comes to koji.
We wanted Rich and Jeremy on the podcast not only because they know so much about koji fermentation, but because they share so many of our own passions and interests, notably that fermentation can be an incredible, natural flavour enhancer, but also a meeting point for pondering minds. Rich and Jeremy also talk about it as a kind of cultural glue – something we all fundamentally share in our ancestral past, and Jeremy even makes a compelling argument for fermentation as essential to human survival. There’s also a description of fermented drinks as being a cosmos in your glass. Prepare to have your mind blown – and then piece it back together and order their incredible book.
We’ve got 3 copies of Koji Alchemy to give away, and that giveaway is open to our newsletter subscribers. For the chance experience more great stuff like this in the future, click here and make sure you sign up. Similarly, hit subscribe on whatever channel you’re currently listening to this podcast on. We’ve got so many great conversations from the world of fermentation and flavour to share with you – we’ve barely scratched the surface.
Before we get going, a brief apology for occasional sound quality issues in this episode. Connecting recordings from three very distant parts of the world brought with it amusing technical difficulties. In fact, I’ll open the podcast with an example of what we were dealing with. Let’s get stuck in.
Want to explore fermentation further?
During the podcast, the guys mentioned Sandor Katz, amongst other people. If you’re not sure who Sandor is and you’re interested in modern ideas about fermentation, spin back to episode 15 of this podcast to see what he had to say, and while you’re there, take a listen to the other 22 episodes we’ve already made. Some amazing chats with some amazing people.
You might also take a look at Chelsea Green, the publishing house behind Koji Alchemy. Their roster of authors includes Jeremy Umansky, Rich Shih and Sandor Katz. Great books and wonderful gift ideas for that eager fermenter in your life.
To buy Koji Alchemy directly, head to Hive website.