- What is Shoyu?
- History of Shoyu
- How To Choose The Right Soy Sauce
- How To Enhance The Flavor Of Food Using Soy Sauce
What is Shoyu?
The taste of soy sauce is one of the most familiar to Japanese. Originating in ancient China, soy sauce was further developed in Japan and is now used in hotels, restaurants and households all around the world. It is spreading throughout the globe as an all-purpose seasoning, so it’s a source of pride for Japan. Today, many kinds of soy sauces are available, and their flavors vary depending on which manufacturing method and ingredients are used. Here we introduce various types of soy sauces and their effective usages, along with the history of soy sauce.
History of Shoyu
Origin of Soy Sauce
Soy sauce is a liquid seasoning developed in Japan. However, its roots go back to Hishio, in China. Soy sauce originated as an ancient technique for food preservation that used salt. It was discovered that when food was preserved in salt, it would ferment and mature over time, and that it would become more savory. Various forms of Hishio were introduced into Japan in the early 6th century CE, such as kusabishio (from herbs), uobishio (from fish) and kokubishio (from grain). Among these basic forms, kokubishio was further refined in Japan. Back then, however, kokubishio was made only from soybeans, whereas today’s soy sauce is made from a combination of soybeans and wheat.
Globalization of Soy Sauce
The globalization of soy sauce can be traced back to the Edo period. During that time, Japanese soy sauce was exported from Nagasaki, which was the only port open to foreign trade. Most soy sauce was shipped to China, Southeast Asia, India and Sri Lanka, but some made it to the Netherlands in northern Europe, where soy sauce was highly prized as a precious seasoning of the Far East.
Japanese soy sauce was greatly valued, and legend has it that Japanese soy sauce was used as a secret ingredient in the royal cuisine served at the table of King Louis XIV of France.
Over the centuries, Japanese soy sauce has become popular in more than 100 countries worldwide. The reason soy sauce is so strongly associated with the lives of Japanese, and the reason it has prevailed throughout the world, must lie in its delicious flavor.
How to make Soy SauceThere are several manufacturing methods for soy sauce, including soy sauce made by regular “fermenting method”, soy sauce made by “mixed and semi-fermenting method” and soy sauce made by “mixed method.” Eighty percent of Japanese soy sauce is “soy sauce made by regular fermenting method.” While the soy sauce made by mixed and semi-fermenting method and the soy sauce made by mixed methods use ingredients that are broken down and fermented through chemical means, the soy sauce made by regular fermenting method uses microorganisms such as koji mold (Aspergillus oryzae) and yeast to create a natural fermentation over a long period of time.
The main ingredients of soy sauce are soybeans, defatted soybeans, wheat and salt. Defatted soybeans have had their oil content removed. Soy sauce is produced through the slow, natural fermentation of koji-mold culture with salt water added. The koji-mold culture is made by mixing the koji mold into the heated ingredients (soybeans and wheat), whereupon the mixture is incubated for a few days. The length of brewing varies depending on the intended type of soy sauce. It can range from several weeks to six months, but some types take even longer.
8 Types of Soy Sauces
The Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) divide Japanese soy sauce into the following five categories: koikuchi (dark soy sauce), usukuchi (light-colored soy sauce), tamari (less wheat), saishikomi (twice-fermented soy sauce) and shiro (clear soy sauce).
Koikuchi (Regular soy sauce)
Koikuchi is the most popular soy sauce in Japan, accounting for a major share of the country’s domestic soy sauce production. It is made from nearly equal quantities of soybeans and wheat, and has been perfected mainly in the Kanto region since the Edo period. It is characterized by its fine balance of aroma, color and taste, and can be used not just alone as a table condiment but also as a cook’s seasoning for simmered dishes, broiled dishes, soup stock, basting sauce, etc.
Usukuchi (Light colored soy sauce)
The word usukuchi (light) indicates its color, not its salt content. In fact, it has slightly higher salt content than koikuchi does. Usukuchi can be used to highlight the natural flavor and appearance of ingredients in the preparation of fish dishes, vegetable dishes, etc. It’s characterized by a light color and an aroma that is relatively less intense. Usukuchi isn’t suitable for use alone as a dipping sauce or a table condiment, but it’s excellent for use in simmered vegetable dishes, clear soups and udon noodle soups.
Unlike koikuchi, which is made with roughly equal amounts of soybeans and wheat, tamari is made primarily from soybeans. It’s popular in the Chubu region, especially in Aichi Prefecture. Along with the typical use as a sashimi dipping sauce, tamari is also used as coating sauce when baking arare and senbei rice crackers, because it turns a beautiful reddish color when heated.
Saishikomi (Refermented soy sauce)
The word saishikomi (meaning “twice fermented”) is derived from a production process in which the soy sauce is actually fermented twice.
Generally, this type has a dark color, a thick texture and a rich flavor. But because saishikomi is expensive, it’s used mostly as a table condiment, particularly as a dipping sauce for sashirni and sushi. In the production process of regular soy sauce, salt water is added to the koji-mold culture. However, in the case of saishikomi, soy sauce is used instead of salt water.
Shiro (Extra light-colored soy sauce)
In contrast to tamari, shiro primarily uses roasted wheat and only a small amount of steamed soybeans. Its color is even lighter than usukuchi, and its flavor and richness are more subdued. Shiro is used to highlight the appearance of foods, and is used as an addition to soup stock for udon noodles and others.
You can also find the following types of soy sauces in the marketplace:
Marudaizu (whole soybeans)
The soy sauce labeled marudaizu isn’t made with defatted soybeans but with whole soybeans, including their oil content. While soy sauce made with defatted soybeans has a sharp, vivid flavor, marudaizu has a deep, mellow flavor.
Yuuki (organic soy sauce)
Yuuki soy sauce uses organic agricultural products (soybeans and wheat) as its primary ingredients and is produced through a process that’s completely separate from the one using non-organic products.
Gen-en soy sauce contains less than 50 percent the sodium of regular soy sauce. In the U.S., this type of soy sauce is designated “Lite” or as “low sodium.”
How To Choose The Right Soy Sauce
With its harmony of color, taste and aroma, soy sauce brings out the deeper, more complex flavor of food. So, it greatly affects your cooking results, depending on how you use it. When using soy sauce in cooking, it’s essential that you choose properly between koikuchi and usukuchi. It’s important to select the soy sauce that will enhance the natural flavors of your cooking ingredients.
Because of its fine balance of color, taste and aroma, koikuchi is a versatile seasoning that can go with just about any ingredient or dish. It lends itself particularly well to teriyaki, nitsuke (simmered dishes) and fish dishes using red fish (bonito, yellowtail, etc.) and blue fish (mackerel, etc.).
Usukuchi is characterized by its light color and subdued aroma, and is used to enhance the natural colors of ingredients in cooking. Usukuchi is particularly recommended for simmered vegetable dishes. It helps retain the color of white root vegetables (taro, lotus root, etc.) and green vegetables. Additionally, usukuchi is an excellent choice if you need to season dishes without adding any color to them, as is the case with chawan-mushi (egg custard) and clear soup.
For more information, please visit the Kikkoman website: http://www.kikkoman.com/
How To Enhance The Flavor Of Food Using Soy Sauce
Soy sauce has an amazing ability to enhance the flavor of food and make it more delicious, and can increase the variety of the dishes you prepare. In addition to Japanese food, soy sauce can be used for a variety of dishes as a hidden flavor. It can provide various effects, such as by enhancing the natural flavor of food and incorporating the tastes of different ingredients. Here are some of the ideas you can try in your daily cooking. No doubt you’ll be able to find delicious new combinations.
1. A final touch for stir-fried dishes
(The flavor will be enriched, making the dish more savory and delicious.)
2. A secret ingredient for curries and stews
(Adding one tsp. of soy sauce as a final touch will bring out a richer, deeper flavor.)
3. A fine combination with Italian dishes
(A delicious salad dressing can be made just by combining proper amounts of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and soy sauce.)
4. A perfect match with dairy products
(In addition to butter, soy sauce is also a great complement to sour cream and cream cheese.)
5. Great for dipping sauce
(Adding a small amount of soy sauce to salsa and guacamole will enhance the natural flavor of the ingredients.)