Soy sauce (Chinese language: in Mandarin, 醬油 pinyin jiàngyóu , in Cantonese, 豉油 see yau; Japanese: 醤油 shōyu) is a fermented sauce, made from soybeans, roasted grain, water and salt, commonly used in Asian cuisine. Although there are many types of soy sauce, all are salty and earthy tasting brownish liquids used to season food while cooking or at the table. Although it originated in China, it is used in various cuisines across Asia. In particular, it is an important flavouring in Japanese cuisine. However, Chinese and Japanese soy sauces are substantially different, and it is rarely appropriate to substitute one for the other.
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2 Japanese Soy Sauce
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Chinese Soy Sauce
The Chinese soy sauces are primarily made from soybean, with relatively low amounts of other grains. There are two main varieties:
Japanese Soy Sauce
The Japanese soy sauce, or "shoyu", is traditionally divided into five main categories, depending on differences in their ingredients and method of production. Japanese soy sauces include wheat as a primary ingredient. This tends to give the Japanese varieties a slightly sweeter taste than the Chinese soy sauces.
- "Koikuchi" (濃口) - Originating in the Kantou region of Japan, its usage eventually spread all over Japan. Over 80% of the Japanese domestic soy sauce production is of "koikuchi", and can be considered the typical Japanese soy sauce. It is produced from roughly equal quantities of soybean and wheat.
- "Usuikuchi" (薄口) - Particular popular in the Kansai region of Japan, it is both saltier and lighter in colour than "koikuchi". The lighter colour arises from the usage of amazake (a sweet liquid made from fermented rice) in its production.
- "Tamari" (たまり) - Produced mainly in the Chubu region of Japan, "tamari" is produced mainly from soybean, with only a small amount of wheat. Consequently, it is much darker in appearance and richer in flavour than "koikuchi". It is the "original" Japanese soy sauce, as its recipe is closest to the soy sauce originally introduced to Japan from China.
- "Shiro" (白, White) - A very light coloured soy sauce. In contrast to "tamari" soy sauce, "shiro" soy sauce uses mostly wheat, and very little soybean, lending it a light appearance and sweet taste.
- "Saishikomi" (再仕込み) - This variety is brewed in soy sauce instead of salt water. Consequently, it is much darker than "koikuchi", and has a much stronger and richer flavour.