Sprinkled on rice or sashimi, used to marinate the chicken, or mixed with other ingredients to create mouth-watering savory sauces, I am speaking, of course, of soy sauce. This condiment can be found in nearly every kitchen, yet how many of us actually know what it is? Does it come from soy like the name implies? Where did it originate and how is it produced?
What is soy sauce?
First things first, what exactly is soy sauce? It is made from fermented soybeans, to which wheat, water, salt, and koji (the fungus aspergillus oryzae) are added to create a paste called moromi. This mixture is poured into wooden barrels and and left for two years until it is ready to be pressed into soy sauce. Or it would be if you were using the traditional Japanese method, but most industrial fermentation only lasts three months, so the taste and texture is quite different.
Where did it come from?
Soy sauce came about in China more than 2,500 years ago as a result of the need to preserve food by means of brines, that is, in salt. However, it was not until the 17th century that this recipe reached Japan, to Yuasa Prefecture specifically, where the remaining liquid from the manufacture of miso (another product of fermented soybeans) was used to make a new version of soy sauce. There are currently different types of soy sauce, such as dark, white, and tamari, which vary according to preparation, salt content, and whether wheat is added.
The result: Umami
Regardless of origin or type, the result is a liquid loaded with umami, one of five basic tastes (along with sweet, salty, bitter, and sour), meaning savory, and the element that makes the mouth feel full and fresh and the food satisfying. It is not for nothing that many Japanese dishes exclusively use soy sauce to season them, and it gives us the perfect excuse to try them!