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More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Soy Sauce

May 4, 2010

Soy Sauce Marinated Chicken with Almond Stir-fried Brown Rice

I’m a believer in cooking simple. Buy the best local or fresh ingredients you can find and let the flavors of the food come through. If it’s not fresh, then I read the label closely, particularly with bottled sauces. I make as many of my own sauces and condiments as I can. I’ll try to make just about anything that comes in a bottle. I draw the line at soy sauce, though. Want to try making your own soy sauce? Here’s one recipe.

Like bread or cheese, there is a big difference between commercially produced products and hand crafted artisan ones.

Most commercially produced soy sauces (even some labeled as shoyu or tamari) are primarily made from soybeans that have been defatted with hexane, a petroleum derivative, and use artificial fermentation methods including genetically engineered enzymes. Check the label on the bottle. Many are nothing but caramel colored water with lots of salt, hydrochloric acid treated soy isolate, and sugar. Take-out packets are some of the biggest culprits in the soy sauce substitution racket.

So, what is “real” soy sauce? Since the 1600s, the Japanese have used soybeans, roasted wheat, sea salt, and koji , a specific type of mold spores that start the fermentation process(like the sourdough bread or cheese making process). Fermentation is the process of koji enzymes breaking proteins down into amino acids and carbohydrates into simple sugars, so it’s an easily assimilable food requiring little energy for digestion.

Traditional Shoyu (the true name for “real” soy sauce) is made in the ancient method of koji fermentation and aged in cedar cask for 2 years or more. Fermentation is the process of koji enzymes breaking proteins down into amino acids and carbohydrates into simple sugars, so it’s an easily digested food. Different strains of koji produce different tasting shoyu.

Tamari, a type of soy sauce, should be made the same way as Shoyu but without using wheat. It is traditional heavier, darker and more full bodied.

Tamari is said to flavor food, Shoyu enhances and harmonizes with food but never overpowers it. Shoyu is most commonly used on the table and in stir frys. Tamari is used in marinades or heavier dishes.

For traditional homestyle asian recipes, I go to Uwajimaya’s Recipes.

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