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.
Chinese Soy Sauce
The Chinese soy sauces are primarily made from soybean, with relatively low amounts of other grains. There are two main varieties:
- 'Light/fresh soy sauce' (生抽) - a thin, clear, light brown sauce. It is the main soy used for cooking, as its lighter colour does not greatly affect the colour of the dish.
- 'Dark/old soy sauce' (老抽) - a dark, thick soy sauce. This variety is mainly used as a table top seasoning, but is also used in cooking. It has a richer flavour than light soy sauce, but is less salty.
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.
Low-salt soy sauces also exist, but is not considered to be a separate variety of soy sauce, since the reduction in salt content is a process performed outside of the standard process of producing soy sauce.
Soy sauce contains a small amount of naturally occurring MSG
. It can also be extremely salty, so it is not a suitable condiment
for some people, and should generally be taken in moderation. Low-salt soy sauces are produced, but it is impossible to make soy sauce without using some quantity of salt.
- Kikkoman - one of the world's leading producers of soy sauce. Primarily produces Japanese style soy sauce