by Avery McGuire Here at the lab where a myriad of cultures merge, each one of us bring a bit of our own culinary heritage that we can’t shake loose. Whether it is a belief about the way cheese should be cut, the idea of what ingredients do and do not pair well together, or the love for an iconic dish from home, within each of us is a set of foodways that have been ingrained at a very young age. We each light up with fond memories and joy when we think of a comforting dish from home. It is these dishes that we are always excited to share with the others to, in a sense, welcome them into our home. For those of us from North America, last summer we realised that our love of the iconic ice cream sandwich has not yet translated across the Atlantic. When … Read more
Researcher: Josh EvansStart date: 28.6.13 It was only a matter of time, after working with koji for so long, that it would find its way to this. Shio-koji (塩麹, lit. ‘salt koji’) is a mixture of koji, salt, and water. The salt kills the Aspergillus oryzae, while its enzymes remain; the salt and carbohydrates from the grain also likely create an ideal climate for some lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and perhaps some salt-tolerant yeasts to populate the mixture. It is a versatile ingredient, used to season, tenderise, and bring out the umami and sweetness of other foods. There are many recipes out there, depending on region, family tradition and individual taste. We have settled on a rough ratio of 4 koji : 1 salt : 5 waterMix together the ingredients, put into a container and cover with cheesecloth.Let stand 10 days at room temperature, stirring every day.Blend and/or pass through … Read more
by Guillemette Barthouil One of our great sources of inspiration are the food cultures of East Asia. Our exploration of umami taste, for example, has made us rediscover the wildness of our own region’s fermentations. The bridges between these cultures are not only contemporary, but can also be traced down through history. While looking into these foodways, an unexpected similarity arose between gravlax and sushi. These two preparations are nowadays eaten raw or lightly cured. Through looking at their etymology we understand that both were once fermented fish. ‘Gravlax’ means ‘buried salmon’ or ‘grave salmon’. It is part of the wider family of the Scandinavian fermented fishes which includes Swedish surlax (‘sour salmon’) and Norwegian rakfisk (‘soaked fish’) [Falk and Torp, 1906]. Harold McGee explains that these techniques were used in remote places where huge quantities of fish were caught in a short period of time and where (and when) … Read more
by Meradith Hoddinott The Thoughts in the Field series has brought us all over the world. In this last installment, the lab unearths one of Mexico’s most sought after delicacies – escamoles – and reflects on the methods and potential of semi-cultivation practices.