Superfood Alert: Koji, the Edible Fungus and its Fermented Foods

Shilpa Arora  |  Updated: February 20, 2017 13:57 IST

Superfood Alert: Koji, the Edible Fungus and its Fermented Foods
  • Koji and its fermented foods can boost your health
  • Koji is available in three varieties - white, yellow and black
  • Koji is widely used to ferment soy beans to produce miso
We are sure that you have heard about fungus, but how about some fungus in your food? Not all are bad for your health, you know! Introducing Koji, a type of fungus, which has been used in Chinese and other Eastern Asian cuisines for centuries to make fermented soybeans or the popular Japanese wine called sake. Koji is a naturally occurring culture used most extensively in Japan to ferment rice and soya and make popular foods like soy sauce, miso, sake, mirin, rice vinegar and vegetable pickles. Fermentation is one of the oldest culinary practices and in recent years, it has suddenly shot back to fame because of the numerous health benefits that come attached with fermented foods. Fermentation of soy beans and rice increase the availability and absorption of nutrients in the body as well.
Koji is available in three different varieties – white, yellow and black, each different in flavour and purpose. The yellow variety is commonly used while making sake. Koji is available in specialty gourmet stores and you can bring home some to start experimenting with. Let’s see how!

Uses of Koji

1. For the Love of Miso

Koji is by far the most widely used culture to ferment soy beans to produce miso. Research suggests that miso is one of the world’s healthiest food containing phytonutrient antioxidants including phenolic acid, vanillic, coumaric, ferulic and kojic acid. Miso has a lovely sweet/salty taste that can be used in a wide variety of recipes. Miso is made from soy beans, salt and koji (culture), and often mixed with rice or grains. This mixture is allowed to ferment for three months to up to three years which produces this healthful food.

Please note: Soy is not a healthy food unless it is fermented. Unfermented soy has been linked to digestive disorders and reproductive problems.
miso soup

2. Want Some Sake?

Koji is used to ferment rice that breaks down starches into sugar, which is further fermented by the yeast to give off carbon dioxide and alcohol. Without koji, sake is not possible. Japanese sake contains many health beneficial components. It helps in blood circulation and balancing good cholesterol. Compared to wine, sake has less sugar and by products that could cause hangovers, therefore sake may help you sleep better. Research suggests that sake is very helpful for people suffering from digestive disorders, stomach ulcers and gastritis. If applied tropically, sake improves skin elasticity by stimulating sensory neurons. 

Drinking alcohol can be rough on your stomach whereas sake will not irritate your stomach and in fact protect it from ulcers and gastritis. Drinking sake in combination with a Mediterranean diet helps improve cardiovascular health.

3. Heard About Amazake?

Amazake is a fermented rice drink made from koji. It is very popular in Japan, and loved by those who have a sweet tooth. Amazake is packed with amino acids (ghatamine, arginine and cysteine) and consists of an abundance of pro-bacteria and pre-bacteria for a healthy gut. Amazake is loaded with kojic acid that have antifungal, antibacterial and anti-microbial properties.

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Why Fermented Koji is Beneficial?

The fermentation process makes a lot of nutrients available to us. Koji breaks down antinutrients and helps the body absorb grains by making them bio available. In addition, the fermentation process imparts delicious and refreshing new flavour notes. Fermentation has been a part of many ancient cultures including our very own. Our intestines are the roots of our bodies. To maintain optimum health, we need to feed our roots with probiotics and active cultures.

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So go ahead and ferment rice or soy with the super koji culture and get abundance of B12, Iron, calcium, proteins, folate, tryptophan and Vitamin K. Above all, fermented and cultured food will strengthen your constitution and improve your resistance to diseases.

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About the Author:

Shilpa Arora ND is a renowned Health Practitioner, Nutritionist and certified Macrobiotic Health Coach. She has to her credit Doctorate in Natural Medicine. She is currently based in Delhi NCR region, successfully running her Nutrition Studio with individual consultations, offering life style programs supported by the most up-to-date clinical research.



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