Much of the praise for Japanese cuisine would be more accurately directed toward Aspergillus oryzae, a mold, otherwise known by its local moniker: kōji.

Kōji is so widely ingrained in Japan’s food traditions, used in everything from sake brewing to soy sauce fermentation, that I find myself asking, as Michael Pollan did in “The Botany of Desire,” whether the Japanese cultivated kōji on purpose, or whether kōji insinuated itself into our lives, beguiling our taste buds and charming our cravings?

Even if you’re unfamiliar with kōji by name, chances are you’ve been consuming it for a while. If, however, you’re ready to jump down the rabbit hole and start experimenting with kōji, this recipe shows you how to use it as part of a dry rub, with herbs and spices for flavor and a tiny amount of baking soda to make the outside more alkaline to encourage browning. In conjunction with moisture absorption by our kōji, this means no searing is necessary before our pork enters the oven.