Koji Whiz

Flavor of the month.
“Koji” sounds like something out of a mad scientist’s lab. But the funky filamentous fungus, whose use dates back to the third century B.C., is just as likely to add some pizzazz to your dinner plate as it is to show up in a petri dish. A host of umami-loving chefs are using koji to ramp up flavors. LongBranch executive chef Adam Ditter grows his own for the extra-chewy, deeply flavorful chicken wings on his bar snacks menu. Ditter, who loves the peach and almond notes that koji adds to proteins, has cured cilantro stems in it and experimented with rubbing beef with a paste of koji, which can age a steak that normally takes 45 days in 48 hours. Cerulean’s Alan Sternberg has added shio-koji to black truffle ssäm sauce, while Asian street food guru Carlos Salazar of Rook unleashes the power of koji as a fermenting agent, pairing it with coffee to cure and deepen the flavor of brisket. Pizzology owner Neal Brown has been producing his own koji in the experimental phase of his Japanese farmhouse–themed Ukiyo, set to open this year. He plans to use it in his version of misozuke, tangy Japanese-style pickled vegetables. And soy it goes.