This is arguably the easiest, most delicious roast or barbecued chook ever. Shio-koji, the salt-fermented rice koji, works beautifully as a seasoning for meat as it both tenderises and sweetens. Serve this with a range of tsukemono pickles or steeped vegetable pickles and a big bowl of steamed Asian greens.
The chicken skin is sticky and crisp and if you want to barbecue it, I recommend butterflying the chicken and cooking it over barely smouldering coals.
- 1 1.8 kg (4 lb) whole chicken
- 165 g (5¾ oz/½ cup) shio-koji (see Note re purchasing, or make your own as per recipe)
- 200 g (7 oz) koji rice
- 35 g (1¼ oz) fine sea salt
- 330 ml (11¼ fl oz/1⅓ cups) water
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Fermentation time for shio-koji: 7-14 days
Marinating time: 3-24 hours
If making shio-koji, put the rice koji in a bowl, using your hands to rub the koji and break up any clumps. Add the salt and mix well. Pour in the water and stir together, making sure the grains are evenly wet.
Cover loosely with a clean tea towel (dish towel) and leave at warm room temperature around 23–27°C (73–81°F) for 7–14 days, stirring the mixture from top to bottom each day to aerate it. The shio-koji is ready when it smells and tastes sweet yet is markedly savoury.
At this point, you can use the koji as is or transfer it to a blender or food processor, and blitz to a smooth paste. Transfer the shio-koji to a clean glass jar, close the lid and store in the fridge where it will keep for up to 12 months. Alternatively, freeze for longer. (See also Note.)
Pat the chicken dry with paper towel and remove any pieces of offal from the cavity. Rub the shio-koji all over the bird, as well as gently tucking some under the skin on the breasts and legs without tearing the skin.
Transfer to a large container and cover loosely. Refrigerate for anywhere between 3 and 24 hours; the longer the chicken is left to marinate, the more tender and flavourful the meat.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Put the bird in a shallow roasting tin, breast side up, and roast in the centre of the oven for 1 hour 15 minutes, until golden and crisp with gorgeous dark sticky spots. Check the chicken is cooked by inserting a skewer into the thigh, the thickest part. If the juices run clear it is done. Rest for 15 minutes before serving. Alternatively, cook butterflied chicken on the barbecue.
• Buy koji rice from some Japanese grocery stores and online retailers such as ricecultures.com.au Find shio-kpoji at selected health food stores and Japanese grocery stores.
• I like shio-koji drizzled over vegetables or mixed into a dressing; or try it as a marinade for fish.
Recipe and image from Ferment by Holly Davis (Murdoch Books, hb, $45) is available now.