What is Soy Sauce?

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salsa de soja soy sauce

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Japanese soy sauce.

Soy sauce is one of the oldest condiments in the world. It is believed to have originated more than 2,500 years ago in China.

Known in Chinese as “jiang you,” the process of making soy sauce slowly spread throughout Asia and was quickly adopted by various culinary traditions, including Japan.

While the original Chinese version was made solely from soybeans, when the sauce spread to Japan, the recipe was modified to use an even ratio of soybeans to wheat, producing a sauce with a sweeter flavour profile.

salsa de soja japón japanese soy sauce

Types of sauce.

If you are new to the world of japanese cusine, there are two types of soy sauce that I would encourage you to have in your pantry: Dark soy sauce and light soy sauce. Let me tell you more about them, and about some other types.

Dark soy sauce (koikuchi shoyu).

This is the most commonly used in Japanese cuisine. When you think of soy sauce, most likely, this is the one you have in mind.

It can be easily found in supermarkets. In the western world, Kikkoman and Yamaza are the largest distributors of soy sauce.

This soy sauce can be used to marinade and make sauces, stews and stir-fries. Unless otherwise specified, if a recipe calls for soy sauce, this is the soy sauce you should use.

When buying soy sauce, make sure it is naturally fermented (often referred to as “naturally brewed”). If you are looking for an even higher quality product, I recommend you look for “marudaizu shoyu”. This simply means that the soy sauce that is made from whole soybeans instead of mashed ones.

When we cook soy sauce, the more subtle and volatile qualities are lost with heat. Save the higher quality soy sauces for those recipes that do not require cooking.

Light soy sauce (usukuchi shoyu)

This is saltier, lighter and more fluid than the dark soy sauce. It is used in soups and stews or in any other dish where a lighter colour is desired.

If you don’t have light soy sauce, you can substitute it with dark soy sauce at a 1:1 ratio.

salsa de soja japón japanese soy sauce
Usukuchi shoyu (left) and saishikomi shoyu (right)

Tamari (tamari shoyu)

Although we consider it a soy sauce, it is actually a by-product of miso.

There are varieties of tamari that are made without wheat, so it is often considered a good option for celiac and gluten intolerant people. Just make sure it says “gluten-free” on the label.

White soy sauce (shiro shoyu)

It is made with the highest proportion of wheat. It is often used as a dipping sauce for white fish sashimi to avoid staining it. Likewise, it is also used in dishes such as suimono, or soups and meals where the light colour of the dish is to be maintained.

Twice brewed soy sauce (saishikomi shoyu)

This soy sauce is thicker, more flavourful and rich in umami. It is mainly used as a condiment.

To produce it, equal proportions of soybeans and wheat are used, but twice the amount is required. This is because, when preparing it, instead of mixing soybeans and wheat with water and salt, as is done with dark soy sauce, these two ingredients (water and salt) are replaced by dark soy sauce. Hence, this sauce is known as twiced brewed.

Recipes with Soy Sauce


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