America’s Test Kitchen has provided guidance to home cooks through its recipe books and PBS cooking show for years. On Monday, January 6, the cooking authority released its first-ever annual forecast on upcoming food trends. And the first item on the list is koji, or aspergillus oryzae, which is a mold that’s used as a fermentation agent in Japanese cuisine.
Dubbed “Japan’s National Mold,” it’s what turns soybeans into miso, soybeans and wheat into soy sauce, and rice into saké. But koji is good for more than fermentation projects that last for weeks or months. When koji-covered rice is fermented with salt and water, it transforms into a sauce called shio-koji that can be used as a quick seasoning for everything from vegetables to seafood.
America’s Test Kitchen writes in a news release: “The umami flavor of Koji has been a long-time pillar in Asian cuisine, but has recently started to gain momentum as prominent chefs and restaurants are experimenting with the strong flavor. In 2020, expect Koji to creep into everyday fare, as eaters become more familiar with the distinct uses and applications of the surprising ingredient.”
Other food trend predictions on the list include curing, bread-making, the Mediterranean Diet, and cooking for one.
Fermented foods like koji not only taste good—they may also be good for your mental health. In 2015, a study connected regular consumption of fermented foods to lower social anxiety in young people.