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Soy sauce in Japan


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San-J makes a tasty shoyu that's cheap enough for everyday use.  I find that larger natural food stores have several brands that are equivalent, as well as smaller bottles of small-batch (like George Ohsawa) that are too expensive except for table use.

Yes, I recently restocked with the San-J Wheat Free. In fact, the Sodium reduced variety--which with most soy sauces I loathe, but with this stuff hardly seems to matter at all.

Want to hear something horrifying? Cleaning out the back of my fridge recently I spotted a mostly full bottle of "La Choy" soy sauce, which had obviously been back there for years. I'm blanking out on how it got there in the first place, but I'm hoping there was a gun involved. Just smelling the two brands next to each other is a revelation.

Wait... ingredients lists...

La Choy: Water, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Corn Syrup, Salt, Caramel Color (why?), Lactic Acid, Potassium Sorbate

San-J: Water, Whole Soybeans (OCIA Certifed Organic), Salt, Alcohol

And of course, some of the brands in the store are alcohol free too (the alcohol acts as a preservative in this case, basically).

For those of you concerned about either my sanity or my health, once again I assure you that the La Choy was hardly used at all.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Wait... ingredients lists...

La Choy: Water, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Corn Syrup, Salt, Caramel Color (why?), Lactic Acid, Potassium Sorbate

A couple of years ago it was found that artificially manufactured soy sauces based on hydrolyzed soy protein often contain dangerously high levels of a powerful carcinogen called 3-MPCD. Hence such soy sauces, as well as some oyster sauces, have been pulled off the shelves in a number of countries.

Apparently the carcinogens are formed when soy protein is dissolved in a powerful acid solution to mimic the fermentation process. This danger is not present in naturally fermented products. I'm not a chemist, so I can't give any more details, but here are links to a good BBC News story. If you want to learn even more, here's a comprehensive set of links to articles about the subject (many from New Zealand).

Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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A couple of years ago it was found that artificially manufactured soy sauces based on hydrolyzed soy protein often contain dangerously high levels of a powerful carcinogen called  3-MPCD.  Hence such soy sauces, as well as some oyster sauces,  have been pulled off the shelves in a number of countries.

I guess I dodged the bullet on that one.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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  • 1 year later...

I found an interesting article about the making of shoyu:

http://www.travelandleisure.com/invoke.cfm...441D2E09C02B61E

Unfortunately, the online version lacks all the cool pictures in the published version (making me soooo glad I tore this article out of the magazine in the doctor's office....shhhh :biggrin: )

There is a link to "Shoyu Showndown" which compares several varieties.

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  • 9 months later...

I saw Tabasco brand soy sauce at the grocery store the other day! I didn't buy any but I will soon. Is this available in Japan? It may actually have been Kikkoman or something but it had a big Tabasco label on it and it said "spicy".

Jennie

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I saw Tabasco brand soy sauce at the grocery store the other day!  I didn't buy any but I will soon.  Is this available in Japan?  It may actually have been Kikkoman or something but it had a big Tabasco label on it and it said "spicy".

I haven't see this yet in stores but I did find an online shop that sells it. Cool!

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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  • 1 month later...

I have run across a few recipes calling for white soy sauce. A google turns this up, but I can't read Japanese. My local Japanese grocery doesn't carry shiro shoyu. Anyone use it, and does it taste different than regular soy sauce? Anyone in the States know a source for it? (Apologies if this has already been discussed).

He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise. --- Henry David Thoreau
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I've sampled shiro tamari before, which does have a distinct flavor from regular tamari, and I suppose shiro-jouyu would be similarly lighter in color and flavor, and particularly suitable for things like suimono (clear soups) and so on. We used it instead of soy sauce when we had a sample from a food trade show.

There are quite a lot of variations of shouyu, and I would expect the same is true for white tamari and white shouyu, so my experiences might not be universal.

I suspect that you can get quite adequate results using ordinary (or, for that matter, special) Japanese shouyu, but if color is important, you might try using "light" soy sauce, which is meant to be lighter in color.

What's the dish that you're making.?

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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I suspect that you can get quite adequate results using ordinary (or, for that matter, special) Japanese shouyu, but if color is important, you might try using "light" soy sauce, which is meant to be lighter in color.

What's the dish that you're making.?

I'm making a fusion vinaigrette sauce for cold poached salmon (sake norimake for Americans who won't eat raw fish), with truffle oil, ginger, chives, and toasted sesame seeds, so I want the flavor but not the color.

I thought that "light" soy sauce meant reduced sodium rather than lighter in color. Kikkoman's "light" soy sauce looks pretty much as dark as the regular.

He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise. --- Henry David Thoreau
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I suspect that you can get quite adequate results using ordinary (or, for that matter, special) Japanese shouyu, but if color is important, you might try using "light" soy sauce, which is meant to be lighter in color.

What's the dish that you're making.?

I'm making a fusion vinaigrette sauce for cold poached salmon (sake norimake for Americans who won't eat raw fish), with truffle oil, ginger, chives, and toasted sesame seeds, so I want the flavor but not the color.

I thought that "light" soy sauce meant reduced sodium rather than lighter in color. Kikkoman's "light" soy sauce looks pretty much as dark as the regular.

I think Jason was referring to "usukuchi shouyu" (薄口しょうゆ) as opposed to the low-sodium soy sauce. From what I can tell, it seems that usukuchi shouyu is made with amazake and apparently has a higher sodium level than regular soy sauce.

One of my favorite foodbloggers, Obachan, talks about it here.

Could you ask your grocer if they could get shiro shouyu for you? The label for the bottles I have seen says 白しょうゆ - if you put that into google image search you'll find lots of pictures.

Jennie

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Yes, I only half-remembered that ambiguity. The "usuguchi" soy sauce that I was thinking of is frequently labeled in english as "light". If it says "low-sodium", that's exactly the opposite of what you want.

I thought that "light" soy sauce meant reduced sodium rather than lighter in color. Kikkoman's "light" soy sauce looks pretty much as dark as the regular.

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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White soy sauce is in fact not white or clear. It is a lot less dark, like a bourbon or something. It is much saltier and therefore you will need less for the recipe than you would regular shoyu. It is used commonly when you want soy flavor and not the color. I use it in some saucework and vinaigrettes, as in your case. You can get it online from Uwajimaya.

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A Google search turned up this source:

http://www.cortibros.biz/WEBSITE/Groceries...e/SoySauces.asp

I know nothing about the retailer, however.

Corti Bros. is a fine foods retailer based in Sacramento. They have a long history and an excellent reputation. I've personally shopped at their market and you'll be fine ordering from them online.

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  • 4 weeks later...

What is the impact of heat on soy sauce? Does it alter it significantly?

If one were to reduce, say, a cup of soy sauce to 1/4 C. and then add 3/4 C. water, would the taste be the same as the unreduced version?

I've been developing a teriyaki sauce for a few months now. I like the taste of the sake, but I don't like the alcoholic bite so I cook the sauce before glazing my meat. As I reduce it, I'm perceiving an overcooked flavor to it. I was reducing the entire sauce (soy sauce/sake/sugar) but since sugar raises the boiling point, I decided to add sugar after reducing. Again, overcooked taste.

Soy sauce is brewed, so I'm guessing it should be fairly stable when boiled, right? Could reducing the sake be giving me off flavors?

The best way to describe the taste I'm getting is 'dark.' Not stronger tasting, but darker tasting. As if maillard compounds were being formed in the reduction process.

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I don't understand how you've overcooked the shouyu, unless you're burning it.

The key thing to remember is that the flavor of shouyu will change in some ways when cooked. It's perfectly normal.

As for preparation of a teriyaki sauce, it's as Hiroyuki mentioned: mixing the ingredients and cooking it until thickened.

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There is a reduced soy-sauce/garlic/chili oil/ five star anise mix that I used to make that would then be blended into a homemade mayonnaise (some adaptation of a "nouvelle cuisine" recipe that was then used for a steak salad). From memory, I do think that it is important to reduce it slowly over low heat rather than quickly over a high heat. Why? Who knows. It just worked better, tasted better.

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I know the flavor you are describing as I have done this before, not normally on purpose though.

I posted my teriyaki recipe in this thread and the ingredients (soy, sake, mirin, and sugar) are only slightly reduced over low heat.

In many Japanese recipes the alcohol is often burned off of the sake first and then the soy sauce added when making a sauce. Other foods that are to be kept mild tasting are simmered in the dashi first and the seasonings, like soy, added only at the end.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I think there are two things that will change when you heat soy sauce.

1) Good soy sauce is a live, fermented food. Heating will inevitably destroy some of the aromatic products of fermentation. This may be why some people use a little soy sauce in cooking, and add a little more at the end to finish the dish.

2) Sugars may be caramelized...or burnt!

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I have to confess to accidently purchasing trader joes low sodium soy sauce and the reduction was an attempt to squeeze some flavor out of it. When I start working with a non low sodium sauce again, I'm sure this will be less of an issue.

Thanks for all your help.

In many Japanese recipes the alcohol is often burned off of the sake first and then the soy sauce added when making a sauce.

Thanks, I think I'm going to utilize this process for my teriyaki.

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