Soy sauce seemed to be the only food that they could taste, so Mace started to investigate what gave soy sauce that umami flavour.
“I tried to find a way to make food have a higher level of umami, but not have as much sodium,” said Mace. “So, by the magic of the internet I heard about this stuff in Japan called shio koji and I went all over town and couldn’t find it.”
“I have this insecurity that I might be bastardizing this really traditional food,” said Mace. “I do it differently because I taught myself how to do it, but I get feedback from Japanese customers who come back to ask what I do differently, because it’s sweeter and they like it.”
Koji is essentially a fermentation culture (a fancy way of saying mold) that naturally grows on rice and is used in our favourite Japanese imports, like soy sauce, mirin and miso. Koji salt, also known as shio koji, is essentially koji culture mixed with salt brine that is fermented for 10-12 days and becomes a sort of paste that is used to improve flavour with less sodium.
Eventually he decided to take it to market and that’s when his long journey began with Farmers Markets, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and the BC Centre for Disease Control.
Finally Mace got the approval he needed to approach Farmers Markets, only to be rejected by all except Burnaby, Langley and Ladner.
“I got rejected because they just didn’t get it or they thought that they already had vendors selling salt,” said Mace. “I have a lot of work ahead of me to educate people on koji salt.”
Despite the ups and downs of building a new food company, Mace is undeterred and wants to expand Koji Fine Foods to include soy sauce and amazake.
“It all came down to a family member,” said Mace. “But I’ve just fallen in love with the whole process of it.”
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