Recently i enjoyed some mind-blowing koji parsnip for dinner. It was the ‘celebration’ dinner actually after the successful dry January and elimination diet… i cooked some very simple risotto and served it with koji inoculated parsnips. I am not going to lie at this point – after a dry month i got quite drunk with that half a bottle of beautiful Hungarian white furmint, but as i remember the food was outstanding. I mean i am a great chef but you know when the ingredients just beautiful by themselves and you hardly need to do anything to make them shine on the plate. This is what happened that night i believe so. Lots of chat and wine with my BBF Henriii – and we sat down to eat. Was silence. I didn’t know what to expect at all – as usual i never tried anything during cooking :) but was beautiful. Plain sunflower seedotto served with brown butter glazed koji parsnips. Flavour was rich and complex – but the TEXTURE! It turned into a ‘fudge’. Like a perfectly cooked juicy pork loin. OMG.
Of course the next day i was wondering – what was the rule of ‘koji’ in all of that? I mean… we ‘ve seen amazing vegetables with chewy jerky texture before – without playing any moulds around… several cooking methods, freezing, roasting, dehydrating, re-hydrating etc etc can change the texture of any vegetable (or any other ingredient) so this called me to do another experiment.
I picked the vegetable swede this time. Hand in hand will try a swede with and one without koji but going thru in the same physical process.
- KOJI SWEDE. Same as always. Good ‘old method’ working for me with perfection. I roasted the swede whole in the oven – was quite big so it took about 2 hours on 180 degrees. no salt but foil. Peel. Then sliced into 4, found it a bit too moist inside so i dried it for an hour in high ventillation. Inoculated with white Aspergillus Oryzae and left in my chamber as usual. The outside temperature in my loft is prettty low so even i put 32degrees in the chamber it is constant 29. No issue whatsoever – the swede is happy as hell already after the first 24 hours. My room smells like a farty heaven – but the koji started to living in a dream for sure. I decide to took out from the chamber after 48 hours because it looks very ready and i dont necessarily want to wait till it spores up. Jump into my 10% brine for 40 minutes. Swimming like a fish.
- PLAIN SWEDE. Roast the swede whole in 180 degrees for 2 hours. Peel and sliced into 4. Salted the surface – because there isnt koji coating i beleive that brine would be too much for the bulb. Here we are.
Both get into the oven to dehydrate. 80 degrees for a few hours. Koji is ready in approx 2 hours while the plain salted swede needs around 5 hours (and still not how i want for real) to reach a hardy texture.
Lets get to the challenge now.
I prepare the 2 different swedes in the same way. Just for simplicity, i keep them vegan – obviously, i would use butter instead in other circumstances – but its not the point now. So first i pan-fry them in both sides in rapeseed oil then start to rehydrate them with a light tomato stock (having nothing else in hand for this – as i was at work – the test is not 100% accurate as i was taking my not very long break – so i was really trying my best to do this as fast as possible).
After some hydration, my stock thickened up (and i was running out of time) so decided to plate and try. And the result was very very very very very surprising.
First of all – koji did coat the swede with perfection so it looked very neat. The texture inside was not as fudge as i wanted/expected but probably i could have dehydrated for a longer time (with the parsnip i did leave it at room temperature for 3-4 days just resting) also. The texture was not bad.
The normal roasted and de-re-de-rehydrated swede was softy – not mushy, it was pleasant but not jerky at all. Shame i was looking forward to that big time. However…
Im not sure if it was me or the swede with the koji – but the coated one definitely had bitter notes. Unmistakeably. Tasted bitter – not a very disturbing way but it was there for sure. I can’t recall the parsnip or carrot or even celeriac and beetroot koji being bitter in the slightest way – so i assume it has something to do with ‘being a swede’ :) . It was a great discovery. I doubt that this has anything to do with the dryness or timing. Interesting.
We learned something again. Well done.