Cooking Food/Drink

Traditional Japanese pickles base made of Salt, Koji, and Rice


What is pickled base called “358”?

The pickled base made of salt, koji, and rice called “358 (three, five, eight in Japanese)” is a product of Fukushima prefecture used as an ingredient for Japanese food. As the name indicates, the product is made by mixing salt, koji, and steamed rice in the ratio 3:5:8. By mixing the 358 with any seasonal vegetable you like you will be able to make your favorite pickled vegetable. Or you can mix the 358 with your favorite meat or fish before you cook so that the product will add “Umami” to the ingredients and remove the smell from fish or meat.

What is Koji?

You may have heard of it but Koji is basically a type of mold that grows on rice or wheat. When you hear of mold, you may think of something dirty or unclean but the type of mold we refer to here is something that is edible and useful for human health. The mold is called “Aspergillus Oryzae” in English. The rice grain can grow and ferment aspergillus oryzae as the mold originally lives in the rice grain, which indicates that the koji mold fits Japanese climate.

The two enzymes found in the koji mold that are most important are amylases and proteases. The former enzyme creates distinctive, sweet taste, while the latter enzyme breaks down proteins into smaller polypeptides or single amino acids that enhances Umami tastes. When you eat miso soup, you may taste a bit of sweetness and Umami in miso which is created by these two enzymes.

Interestingly, aspergillus kind mold normally produces a toxin; however, the koji mold specifically does not produce one as it lacks DNA which produces a toxin in it.

The popular Japanese food ingredients and alcohol such as soy sauce, miso, Japanese vinegar, Japanese sake, Japanese shochu, etc. are all produced by using the koji mold.

How to use 358 for your cooking?

358 is a product made by one company called Miine Primal based in Fukushima prefecture. The salt, koji, and steamed rice are all mixed in the predetermined ratio (3:5:8) in a package shown in a picture below so you don’t need to prepare ingredients by yourself. Not just the koji mold but you will be able to gain lactic acid and yeast through this fermented food which can enhance your immune system.

Let me explain how to use this product to make pickled vegetables and meat.

Firstly, cut your favorite vegetables such as radish, eggplants, cucumbers into small pieces. If you are using mini tomatoes then you can just use as they are. Please make sure to wash all the vegetables with water before you put them into a Ziploc.

Secondly, take out one spoon (20g) of 358 and put into a Ziploc. Also, add one spoon of drinking water. If you plan to add a lot more vegetables, then you may add more 358 and water. The ratio of 358 and water is 1:1.

Thirdly, add your vegetables in the Ziploc you prepared in Step 2. You may feel the vegetables aren’t mixed up with 358 in the Ziploc but don’t worry, as water released from the vegetables will eventually soak every ingredient in the Ziploc into the koji mold equally. Leave them for about half a day to a full day. Please do the same for meat/fish before you cook.

Lastly, just put everything on your plates and enjoy the meal! I made a pork stir-fry together with green pepper the other day after dipping pork into two spoons of 358 and water for about half a day. It was very easy but very tasty Japanese meal.

Where to purchase 358?

The easiest way to purchase the product is to buy online unless you live in Fukushima prefecture. Unfortunately, they don’t have English website but you can go to the link below to find the product I introduced here. The Miine Primal company has its own Facebook page as well as Instagram page so you can check out their recipes there (maybe google translation would help) which look pretty amazing!

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