The first time I experienced soy sauce was at a Chinese restaurant in across the street from Queens Center Mall. My aunt would take the family there for family meals. I loved it. Being Latin-American (I am Colombian born), these dressings were intriguingly foreign to me. Duck sauce and soy sauce quickly became some of my favorite condiments.
As I got older, I learned that soy sauce is not just the Kikkoman stuff at Chinese restaurants. There are many varieties, each geared to its own purpose. This post is a mere introduction into basic soy sauce, there are many other types, but this should get you started.
There are lots (and I mean lots) of different types of soy sauce. Just like in wine making, where each bottle of Cabernet varies from the next; soy sauce varies by country, brand, and production style. Different types of soy sauce are produced by changing the fermentation methods, altering the ratio of water, salt and fermented soy, and adding other ingredients.
Before it was Shoyu, it was hishio; salt fermented with with animal (or vegetable protein) and fiber. Grain hishio (fermented with things like beans, rice, or wheat) evolved into miso. The leftover liquid is what we now know as shoju.
***Did you know that fish hishio is the predecessor of today’s sushi?
Japan adapted Chinese techniques to develop today’s shoju: soy sauce made from daizu beans (soy beans), salt, and wheat.
How is Shoju Made?
1. Mix soy beans, wheat, and mold to make koji (an active culture)
2. Mix with salt and water
3. Let ferment & brew for a year
4. Compress to extract the liquid
5. Refine the liquid
Basic Types of Shoju
1. Usukuchi (light): this is more your all purpose shoju. Although it is lighter than Koikuchi, it is saltier.
2. Koikuchi (dark): this one is made from pretty much equal quantities of soy beans and wheat.
3. Tamari (dark): made from only soy beans (no wheat) so it
is safe for a gluten free diet.
Commercial shoyu usually lasts quite a long time because it is pasteurized (and has preservatives added). It is recommended that you use your shoyu within a 3 month period because the flavor dissipates quickly.
If you find natural, preservative free shoju, keep it in the fridge. If it gets a mold on the surface, don’t eat it.