Mirin is a sweet wine used in Japanese cookery. In the UK we’re most familiar with its use in teriyaki sauce, but it is used in a wide range of other Japanese dishes.
Traditionally mirin is made from shochu, a Japanese spirit usually made from sweet potato. Shochu is difficult (and expensive) to get hold of in the UK, so I’ve used vodka.
It’s really easy to make – just mix koji, cooked rice, and a neutral tasting spirit. Then leave at room temperature for 2 – 3 months. I mixed 300ml vodka, 100g koji and 100g of cooled, cooked rice.
After 3 months the mirin develops a rich golden colour. At this stage you can strain off the solids or leave it to mature further. I like to leave the solids in the liquid, carefully pouring off the amount I’d like to use for each recipe. This means I get the best of both worlds – the ability to use it now and for it to mature further with time.
Much of the mirin available in the UK is made from sweetners and not produced in the traditional way. By creating your own mirin you get to experience a product that is naturally fermented and rich in nutrients.
Red lentil miso is probably the quickest miso you can make – you don’t need to soak the beans overnight and the lentils cook in under 20 minutes. Then it’s just a case of mixing the cooled lentils with koji and salt and pressing into a jar.
This miso will probably be at its best after about 4 months, but will be ready faster if the temperature is especially warm (higher than 30°C) or longer if the temperature is less than 20°C.
This red lentil miso is a delicious sweet miso that works especially well in soups and salad dressings.
Drain them well, trying to remove as much water as possible.
Once the lentils are cool, mix in the koji and salt.
Ensure the koji and salt and evenly distributed through the mixture
Form the mixture into balls, squeezing out as much air as you can. If the balls crack and fall apart the mixture is too dry and a small amount of cooled, boiled water should be added. If the balls ooze water, place in a muslin cloth and try to squeeze out as much as possible.
Press the balls into a clean jar, removing as much air as possible. Then sprinkle the surface with a layer of salt. Add a weight to the top of the miso, to squeeze out as much air and liquid as possible, Then leave at room temperature for 4 months
Amazake is a traditional Japanese drink made from koji. It can be drunk ice cold in Summer, or gently heated to provide a delicious warm drink in Winter.
It has recently been labeled as a super food due to it’s high nutritional content – including complex B vitamins and all the amino acids the body needs. It also contains oligosaccharide, a prebiotic important for gut health.
Amazake is normally made (see the Traditional Amazake Recipe) by holding a mixture of koji, rice and water at 60°C, but this requires specialist equipment. If you’d like to make amazake at home, using just a fridge, then you have to wait a little bit longer for your amazake to be ready (7 days) but it is well worth the wait!
It is really important that all equipment is sterilised before use. Amazake is normally made at 60°C, which helps to prevent dangerous bacteria from growing. Cold brewing is much more likely to result in bacterial growth, so special care must be taken to ensure everything is spotlessly clean before making amazake in this way.
Sterilise all equipment before use.
Ensure the fridge is kept cool (3- 4°C)
Keep the amazake tightly sealed throughout the brewing process, to prevent bacteria from entering.
Minimise the amount of air inside the brewing vessel by using the right sized vessel for the amount you’re brewing – you can add some extra cooled, boiled water to top up vessel if required.
If you follow strict hygiene practices you should create a safe, delicious, nutritious drink. But if you want to be extra cautious you could boil your amazake before drinking to ensure no nasties are present.
Which rice to use?
Any type of rice can be used to make amazake. In fact, you can even replace the rice with another source of carbohydrate, like oats, quinoa or buckwheat. Brown rice will result in a darker, nuttier flavour drink; whilst white rice tends to be a cleaner, sweeter flavour. Traditionally, amazake is made with mochi rice – this is a short grain Japonica rice, which is especially glutinous (sticky, not containing gluten) But just start with whatever is easiest for you to source and experiment from there.
Amazake is normally made quickly, at 60°C. This recipe enables those without the ability to hold food at 60°C to make amazake at home in the fridge.
Keyword: amazake, Koji
250mlwaterboiled, then cooled
It is really important that all equipment is sterilised before use. Amazake is normally made at 60°C, which helps to prevent dangerous bacteria from growing. Cold brewing is much more likely to result in bacterial growth, so special care must be taken to ensure everything is spotlessly clean before making amazake in this way. I boiled the jars/bottles/spoons in water before use. Other methods of sterilisation are good (eg. commercially available sterilising solutions), but double check they are safe for use on metal/plastic, if that is what you're using.
Add the koji, cooked rice (any type of rice is fine, see notes below) and boiled water (which has been cooled to room temperature) to each bottle (the amounts can be scaled up/down for different sized bottles) This can be quite fiddly for small necked bottles - like the ones I used! I recommend using a wider necked jar.
Store in the fridge for one week.
The amazake is now ready! You can drink it as it is. FIlter the rice out for a clear, crisp drink that is delicious cold. Blend the rice in, for a creamy drink that is delicious hot. Or experiment with adding different flavours - eg cinnamon to hot, creamy amazake or fruit syrups to cold filtered amazake. Enjoy!
Shoyu koji is made by mixing soy sauce with koji. This means it combines the flavour of soy sauce with the power of koji. Use it in place of soy sauce in any recipe for an extra depth of savoury flavour.
The real power of shoyu koji comes when you use it as a marinade – coating food for a few hours/overnight so the koji can perform it’s magic.
If you use it in a marinade:
Carbohydrates (like rice or potatoes) will become sweeter
Proteins (like beans or meat) will be broken down into delicious amino acids – which are especially beneficial for our nutrition.
Meat will become more tender
It is really simple to make – just mix koji and soy sauce together, then leave at room temperature for 7 days.
If you can’t wait then it is perfectly safe to eat it before the 7 days are up, it just won’t have reached maximum deliciousness!
Use shoyu koji instead of soy sauce in any recipe to add a greater depth of flavour.
Keyword: Koji, Soy Sauce
100mlwaterboiled, then cooled to room temperature
Mix the ingredients together in a jar
Place a lid on the jar and leave to ferment at room temperature for 7 days.
After 7 days it is ready! At this stage you can either blend it until smooth or sieve to remove the rice. Use instead of soy sauce, to add a rich umami flavour to any dish. Transfer to a fridge, where it can be stored for at least a month.
Note: The photos in the recipe instructions are using Fava Bean and Toasted Rice Shoyu, instead of soy sauce. This is much lighter in colour than the traditional Shoyu koji (main post photo) and has the added benefit of being gluten/soy free.Shoyu koji made from fava bean and toasted rice shoyu is also clear, when filtered from the rice at the end. This means it can be used to add a real depth of flavour to clear liquids, without altering the clarity.
Shio koji has the ability to tenderise meat, whilst at the same time adding a depth of flavour. This means if you use it to marinade chicken you can create the tastiest chicken nuggets you’ve ever eaten!
The fantastic thing about shio koji is that it doesn’t alter the taste of the chicken – it just makes it taste more “chickeny!” It adds a depth of savoury flavour (umami) that is irresistible.
The salt in the shio koji has the added benefit of brining the chicken at the same time – making the meat juicier.
The Science Behind It
Koji has the ability to break down the proteins in the chicken, converting them into a range of amino acids which are especially delicious. This breaking down of the proteins also makes the meat more tender.
It can then be used immediately, or left to ferment for one week to improve the flavour.
Adapt the Recipe to Your Taste
The nuggets are delicious without adding herbs and spices to the breadcrumbs, but you can adapt this recipe to use your favourite blends. It works equally well with the KFC blend of spices as it does with a Japanese karaage chicken.
You can’t really go wrong with fried chicken – it tastes delicious whichever spices you decide to use!
This fava bean and toasted rice shoyu is perfect for those who are allergic to soy, or avoiding soy beans for sustainability reasons. It is also gluten-free.
I’ve developed this recipe to use koji, so there is no need to crack wheat or grow spores in an incubator – that tricky part is avoided/done for you. The hardest thing about this recipe is waiting four months for it to be ready. I failed on that part – removing spoons from the top of the mixture a few weeks before it was officially ready! But as someone who’s allergic to soy and so had to endure years without a delicious, umami filled Japanese sauce I think I can be forgiven.
Fava Bean and Toasted Rice Shoyu - A Soya Free Soy Sauce
This fava bean and toasted rice shoyu is made in a similar way to soy sauce, but is completely free from soya. It is perfect for those who are allergic to soy, or avoiding soy beans for sustainability reasons. It is also gluten-free.
Soak them in one litre of cold water for at least 8 hours
Replace the water, pour into a pan, and simmer gently until the beans are cooked (approximately 45 minutes)
Whilst the fava beans are cooking, spread the rice on a baking tray. I used a white sushi rice, but any type of rice will do.
Bake the rice at 180'C until it is golden brown. This will take about 20 minutes. Ensure you shake the rice regularly for an even colour.,
When the fava beans have cooked, drain them.
Add one litre of water, which has been boiled and then allowed to cool slightly, to the 3 litre jar. Note: The water is boiled to ensure all bacteria is killed, but ensure it has cooled, as if the water is too hot the jar might crack.
Add the salt to the water and stir until dissolved.
Transfer the cooked beans and toasted rice to a 3 litre jar. Mix well.
Once the mixture has cooled to below 40'C, add the koji.Note: If you don't have a thermometer, just wait until the jar no longer feels warm.
Stir well and then cover with a cloth - I used a muslin, which I attached with an elastic band, but you could use a T-Towel and string.
Leave the jar at room temperature for about 4 months; stirring every other day for the first week and then weekly after that.
After 4 months the colour will have darkened and the liquid will taste delicious! To remove the liquid from the solids, strain through a muslin. Squeezing to remove as much liquid as possible.
Pour into a sterilised bottle and then store in the fridge. Use as you would soy sauce.
Red Akamiso 赤味噌 Miso is one of the darkest, most flavourful misos. It is typically aged for over a year to produce a rich paste, packed with umami flavours. It’s generally used for marinades or glazes, but it’s strength means a little goes a long way!
The long fermentation time means that a higher salt content (around 13%) is needed. It is also beneficial to make a larger volume than you would for the sweeter misos – smaller volumes may not ferment as well and if you have to wait a year for it to be ready you don’t want to run out of miso once you’ve discovered how delicious it is!
This recipe is for the smallest volume I recommend, although you can multiply it up to create larger amounts, as desired.
When aging misos for a longer period it is also important to put a weight on top of the miso as it matures. This should weigh at least 500g (25% of the weight of the miso being made). This weight will press out any air pockets which form during fermentation, minimising the risk of mold growth.
The taste can be too overpowering for some recipes, so it is often mixed with sweet white miso to produce a blend known as awase miso.
Note: Traditionally soybeans are used to make miso, but as I’m allergic to soy I’ve use fava beans.
Wash the beans, removing any remaining pieces of shell
When the water runs clear, cover and leave the beans to soak in cold water for at least 6 hours
The beans will almost double in volume. Place beans in a saucepan with fresh water and simmer gently until cooked. This will take about 45 minutes for fava beans or 2 hours for soybeans. Alternatively: A darker colour miso can be achieved if the beans are steamed, instead of boiled.
Drain the beans in a colander, saving the bean cooking water for use later.
Mash the beans. If you like a smooth miso you can pulse them in a food processor. I prefer a chunky miso (which I can blend to a smooth paste, if a specific recipe requires it, once the miso is ready) Some people also like to put the mixture through a meat grinder, to produce a well mixed paste. All methods will produce a delicious miso!
Add the salt and mix in.
Once the beans have cooled to less than 40'C (if you haven't got a thermometer wait until the beans feel the same temperature as your skin - or cooler) stir in the koji.
Now try to form the mixture into a ball. At this stage it will probably be too dry and fall apart.
Slowly add the cooled bean water that you saved earlier. Mix well and stop as soon as the mixture can be formed into a ball.Note: If you've forgotten to save the bean water you can used cooled boiled water.
Get a clean 2 litre jar/crock. Moisten a clean paper towel with bean water and rub a small amount of salt all over the inside - this will help to prevent mold from growing at the edges.
Press the bean mixture into the jar, one layer at a time. Try to remove as many air bubbles as you can.
Once all the mixture is in the jar, wipe the edges with a clean paper towel. Lightly sprinkle the surface with salt and then cover with cling film. Find a plate or jar that fits inside your crock and then place weights on top of it. These will continually press down on the miso, removing air pockets as they form.
Leave the miso in a cool, dry place for a year. Then enjoy!The miso can be matured for longer than a year, it will become darker and deeper in flavour the longer it is left.Note: The miso in the picture has been blended to a smooth paste.
Traditionally soybeans are used to make miso, but as I'm allergic to soy I've use fava beans.
Miso soup originates from Japan. It’s a delicious savoury soup, rich in vitamins and minerals. It can be made as quickly as a cup of tea, or in under 2 hours – if you desire the ultimate, authentic taste.
In its simplest form miso consists of two ingredients: dashi and miso paste.
Dashi a stock used in Japanese cookery. It is normally made from kombu (a type of seaweed), mushrooms (shitake are used most frequently) and katsuobushi (dried, fermented tuna) but it can made from just one or two of these ingredients.
Miso paste is traditionally made from soybeans, salt and koji. There are thousands of different types of miso in Japan, but you’ll normally only find one or two in the UK.
Miso paste (note: the words miso and miso paste are used interchangeably and refer to the same thing) can be bought from Umami Chef and most supermarkets. If you’d like to try a greater range of misos you can visit Japan – or buy Umami Chef koji and use it to make your own miso! It’s really easy – you just mix cooked beans with salt and koji and then leave it to mature for as little as 10 days. You can make miso from any bean and experiment with different flavours. This means that you can enjoy miso, even if you’re avoiding soy beans, as homemade miso can be made with fava beans, cannellini beans, or even lentils! Find out more about making miso on my miso page.
Any miso can be used to make a soup – a sweet white miso (like my 10-day miso) makes a light creamy drink; whilst a dark, rich miso makes a more savory soup, which can be easily turned into a meal by the addition of vegetables, tofu and noodles.
The easiest way to make miso soup
You can make miso soup very quickly by using a shop bought stock – any stock will produce a lovely, warming drink.
Simply make up the stock using the directions on the packet, then stir a heaped teaspoon of miso paste into each mug.
For a more authentic taste, use instant dashi stocks from Japan. These can be bought in many Asian supermarkets or online (just search for “dashi stock”). Occasionally larger supermarkets also have dashi stock, but these can be expensive.
Note: Most dashi stocks contain fish, but the green one on the right is suitable for vegans.
Making Dashi From Scratch
The ultimate, authentic dashi is made from scratch.
Add 20g of kombu to 1 litre warm water and leave to soak. For the perfect dashi the temperature should be held just below 60C for 40 minutes (bitter notes can form if the temperature rises above 60’c).
Remove the kombu and add 40g dried, chopped shitake mushrooms. Simmer gently for an hour.
Remove the mushrooms, then gently stir in 10g of katsuobushi flakes.
Leave for a couple of minutes then strain through a sieve.
Your dashi is now ready to use!
The Ultimate Miso Soup
The best miso soup is made by selecting about 40g of the freshest vegetables and lightly cooking them in 2 cups of dashi. Popular choices for vegetables in Japan include daikon radish, leeks, seaweed and cabbage, but anything can be used. A few cubes of tofu can also be added.
Once the vegetables are tender, stir in about 1 tablespoon of miso then transfer directly to a bowl. Enjoy!
Amazake is a traditional Japanese drink made from koji. It can be drunk ice cold in Summer, or gently heated to provide a delicious warm drink in Winter. It has recently been labeled as a super food due to it’s high nutritional content – including complex B vitamins and all the amino acids the body […]
Sweet white miso (for example, 10 Day Miso) is perfect in salad dressings – it adds a depth of flavour that brings dishes to life. I’ve chosen hazelnuts, as they’re in season at the moment, but all nuts work well in this warming autumnal salad. Warm Broccoli and Hazelnut Salad with a maple, hazelnut and […]