Soy sauce is an indispensable seasoning and fermented food in Japanese cuisine. This umami-packed, savory sauce made from soybeans, wheat, salt, and koji mold has been produced in Japan for over 1,000 years. Let's explore the complex world of Japanese soy sauce.
References to early forms of soy sauce in Japan date back to the 7th century CE. By the Kamakura period (1185-1333) it had become a staple seasoning. Soy sauce was originally called shoyu and produced in Buddhist temples.
Many regional varieties of soy sauce emerged over the centuries:
Kanto region - Usukuchi shoyu (light color, delicate flavor)
Kansai region - Koikuchi shoyu (dark color, strong flavor)
Kyushu - Light and mildly sweet tamari shoyu
Okinawa - Dark, rich sauce blending soy with the local spirit awamori
Specialty sauces also developed, like:
Saishikomi - Twice-brewed for deeper flavor
Shiro shoyu - Made with more wheat, golden hue
Soy sauce contains protein, carbs, fiber, probiotics, and antioxidants. It has anti-cancer and heart health benefits. The savory umami compounds glutamates, ribonucleotides and amino acids provide a flavor boost.
In Japan, soy sauce is ubiquitous - enhancing sushi, dipping sauces, stir fries, marinades and dressings. A few dashes amplify the flavors of any dish.
From delicate usukuchi to hearty Okinawan sauces, soy sauce is a fermented Japanese treasure. Its balanced sweetness, saltiness, and aroma reflect centuries of artful brewing mastery.