Cream stew, or white stew, is a typical yōshoku dish, which refers to a style of Western-influenced cooking in Japan. Simmered or stewed dishes have existed in Japan for centuries, but the concept of a milk-based stew first appeared in Japan around the latter half of the 1960s. It's a nostalgic dish for many adults and especially popular with kids. In this recipe, the addition of koji elevates the flavour to something a little more refined.
Koji is a type of Japanese seasoning used for centuries as a condiment in a wide variety of dishes. Made from rice malt and salt, it lends an authentic flavour to this stew. Koji has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years, thanks in part to the rise in popularity of fermented foods.
Resembling porridge, koji takes on a faintly sweet flavour from the rice. It has a sweet and salty taste, a delicate fermented aroma and can come in a purée, paste, set or even powdered state.
Autumn is my favourite season for food. As temperatures fall, I find myself craving hearty soups and long-simmered dishes packed with umami. It's the season for sweet kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) and luscious Japanese mushrooms. That's why I've used mushrooms instead of chicken in this recipe for a more autumnal feel.