This broth is killer. It's so perfectly balanced, rich and flavorful, without being 'over the top'. It shouldn't be this easy, but it is. It's rare for something this delicious to not require a ridiculous number of steps and an advanced culinary degree.
Like me, you've probably never heard of Shio Koji. I follow a couple of Japanese cooking blogs, and when I saw this, I had to know more!
Shio Koji, made from Shoyu Koji (a fermented mixture of soy sauce and koji rice spore), has a mild but rich umami flavor. Shio Koji is milder in taste and richer in umami when compared to soy sauce. Looking like rice porridge, Shio Koji takes on a faint sweet flavor for a sweet and salty taste, and has a slightly fermented smell. Depending on the fermentation time and the amount of water, it matures in different forms and textures. That's the background. The part I care about is what's in this bottle. I bought the Hanamaruki Liquid Shio Koji which is available in a 16.9 ounce bottle on Amazon.com, too.
I'd been relying on miso (shown above) to give my Japanese broth the Umami punch. It's fine, but sometimes, I want a crystal clear broth. Can't use miso and get 'clear'. Hmmmm. What to do? Shio Koji is the answer. Combine this with dried Shiitaki mushrooms (shown below, and inexpensive at your local Asian market!), some dried Kombu (kelp), water, fresh ginger slices and some cut up carrots and onion .... you've got some serious flavor firepower. It can be made on the stove top in a pot, but I think the Instant Pot does a faster, better job of it.
I adore my Instant Pot. It's been the single most worthwhile investment I've made for my kitchen in years. I've long since got rid of the more expensive pressure cookers, rice cookers and slow cookers. This single device continues to amaze with it's sturdy, versatile utility.
Here's the really sweet thing - I make the broth in an Instant Pot steamer basket. The basket (shown above) sits in the water, releases the flavor from the mushrooms, ginger, onion, carrot and Kombu. Then, you simply lift it out and set it on a plate to drain (shown below). I use the mushrooms - just snip the softened mushrooms into strips and add them back into the broth/soup, and the rest goes into the compost bucket. Easy.
Look at this lovely, clear broth. It was tempting to just keep tasting and tasting.
Now, it's time to start adding more flavor ingredients to your broth.
Carrots, onions and the cooked mushrooms are a given.
Then, I add some sort of plant-based protein. In this case, I added the Gardein Chick'n Strips. But, you could add seitan or other plant-based protein.
Give it a splash - or two - of Mirin for subtle sweetness, and a hint of soy sauce. Balance the flavors. Put the lid back on and cook the carrots, turnips, onions and protein for just a couple minutes at Low Pressure. Natural Release. I don't put all the vegetables in for this stage, because I usually transfer it all to a soup pot and barely simmer the remaining quick cooking vegetables for about 20-30 minutes while we watch the news. Yeah. That's the routine here. Watch the news, then eat dinner.
Above: The carrots, onions, turnips and plant-based Chick'n Strips in the broth.
The quicker cooking vegetables that I used for this meal were pea pods, the really thin asparagus, and thin batons of turnip! Those cook easily in a simmering broth. The turnip is especially nice! But, you can use so many different vegetables, including Swiss Chard, Kale, sweet potato, yam, Yukon Gold potatoes, new potatoes, cabbage, sliced Brussels Sprouts.
Work through the produce bin. Just remember to cut everything into small pieces that will cook quickly and at the same rate.
Above: If you haven't tried delicate turnips, cut into batons, in a soup, you should!
Finally, you can add whatever type of noodle you prefer. The noodles shown below are Udon noodles, but use whatever kind you prefer. The Udon noodles are pre-cooked and just need to be warmed through. If you're using dried noodles, then you will need to pre-cook them and put them in at the end to warm through.
Green onions - sliced on a diagonal - are a nice pop of color and flavor for garnishing.
Make this broth your own! Add whatever kind of plant-based protein you like, such as tofu or tempeh or seitan will work as a alternative to the Chick'n strips.
But, at the end of the day, or bowl, try Shio Koji in any other recipe that needs that subtle umami richness. You'll never look back! Tonight, I used a couple of splashes in a tomato-based sauce with wide noodles, onions and Collard Greens. It killed.
This is a hearty, filling and yet very healthful plant-based meal that won't weigh you down! The best part? Customizing it with what you have on hand.
Hey, if you like or make this dish, would you mind posting the recipe to Yummly? I'd really appreciate that. The Yummly icon is on the right side of this webpage. Oh, and saving to Pinterest would also be great! Each photo should have a Pinterest icon in the upper left corner! Thanks!
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