I grew up with a mother who would try every other unique recipe she lay her eyes on.
Her weekends were made of a new unique delicacy from any part of the world she would think of.
Since I was a foodie type, I would long for these weekends just to see what was on my plate this time.
One common bottle in our house was soy sauce. I never got to see her use it although I would see new bottles every so often. I never got enough of soy sauce chicken recipe and now I understand why. Trust me, the lady was a magician when it came to the cooking.
Recently, I saw an article online indicating that soy sauce was the 3rd common condiment in the world after ketchup and mayonnaise. While I began using it a few years ago since it’s a common ingredient in Chinese cuisine, I really didn’t know much about it.
Our article today focuses on understanding the nitty-gritty of this popular condiment.
WHAT IS SOY SAUCE
It’s one of the oldest condiments in the world that is made from fermented soybeans and mixed with wheat, barley or rice. Basically, it’s made by boiling and fermenting soybeans. The soybeans are then covered with salted water for weeks.
It results in a thin reddish-brown liquid that has salt and umami flavors. This is a staple Asian seasoning ingredient.
In China, the cultivation of soy beans has taken place for thousands of years. This is a highly flexible crop that you can pickle and ferment then soak and grind to make soy milk. it’s used to make tofu by curdling at times.
Most people know soybeans as the major ingredients used to make soy sauce.
- San-J tamari is a premium soy sauce made with more soybeans than ordinary soy sauce giving it a richer, smoother, more complex taste
- Gluten free
- Enhances the flavors of food naturally
THE ORIGIN OF SOY SAUCE
The origin is traced back to the 6th century when salt was used to preserve fish, pork, chicken and meat then the leeched liquid by-product was used to season other meals. The vegetarians then became common in which meant that the meaty seasoning could not be used by many.
Consequently, the grains seasoning replaced the meat seasonings during the Han dynasty. The grains used at this time were soybeans since they were easy to come by and harvest. The fermented soybeans were used to make ‘douche’ which would later evolve to soy sauce.
The same principle saw the rise of soy sauce in Japan. Where a Japanese Zen priest while studying in China came across this kind of seasoning. When he went back to Japan, he introduced the same concept of seasoning. But, he added some other ingredients to the recipe.
He blended wheat and soybeans. This provided a mellow flavor to the sauce making the food taste even better. By the 17th century, the recipe had evolved to the extent that it was very close to our soy sauce today.
HOW IS SOY SAUCE MADE?
It’s made using 2 methods
1. Traditional process
It consists of 3 steps.
Koji-making: this involves the selection of soybeans and wheat which are then crushed and blended together. You then add water to the mixture and bring it to boil until the grains are soft and cooked. When the mash then cools to about27 degrees, you add the Aspergillus.
Let the mixture then mature for 3 days in a perforated vat. This mixture is what we call koji.
Brine: you then add the water and salt to the above mixture and let it stay in a fermentation tank for 5-8 months. At this time, the enzymes act on the soybeans and wheat. Breaking them down to amino acids and later to lactic acid and alcohol.
Refinement: using filtration clothes, you can separate the soy sauce from the wheat and soy beans and then pasteurize the soy sauce to increase its shelf life and add more flavor and aroma. Finally, bottle the end product as soy sauce.
2. The chemical process
From the above process, the modern tech has seen the rise of the process called hydrolysis to replace the fermentation process which takes longer.
Here, the mixture is boiled in hydrochloric acid for 15-20 hours in order to remove the amino acids after which the mixture is cooled down.
Using the sodium carbonate, the amino acid is neutralized then filtered using active carbon and finally purified by filtration. This forms a hydrolyzed soy protein.
A caramel color corn syrup and salt are added for flavor and color.
TYPES OF SOY SAUCES
There are 3 major types of soy sauce and they include:
You must have seen the Chinese recipes that ask you to include a soy sauce in your recipe, right?
In this instance, what they require for you to use is light soy sauce. Unless they specify the particular type, you need to use, the reference point is usually the light one. Its color is light reddish brown, it’s opaque, salty and thin in taste.
It is used to enhance the flavor of most dishes and is common among the Chinese and Taiwanese.
It takes longer to age than light soy sauce. It also includes other additive ingredients like molasses or caramel and a little cornstarch. It is sweeter, thicker in texture and darker than light soy sauce. It’s used in stews, dips and salad dressings.
- Thick soy
You make it using sugar, more wheat and a starch thickener. It’s sweet and used in stir-fry food. You could use it in pork dishes too.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF SOY SAUCE
Apart from enhancing the flavor of a meal, soy sauces are beneficial to our body system.
- It is a good source of sodium which is necessary for the body functioning.
- It can help to regulate the amount of sodium in your body even with the amount of sodium it has.
- It has an anti-allergenic property that is produced during the fermentation process.
- It acts as an antioxidant because it has a high amount of shoyu flavones which is a natural antioxidant.
- It produces good coloring for your meals especially barbecues.
THE 10 BEST SOY SAUCES TO TRY
1. San-J Tamari Gluten Free Soy Sauce
The soy sauce is of good quality and has been in use for over 3 decades. It’s made with more soybeans than the usual ones used for soy sauce which makes it richer in flavor. If you react to gluten then this is totally for you because it contains no gluten.
Unlike other soy sauces that have wheat, this one is made using soy beans only which helps it to enhance the food flavors naturally. They employ the natural fermentation process which makes it richer than many other chemically fermented soy sauces.
You can use it in soups, sauces, marinades, stir-frying dishes and casseroles
2. Premium lite soy sauce
It is an award-winning multipurpose sauce. It’s the best product from Thailand that you can use to prepare your grilled meat, fish, pasta, sushi or roasted veggies and many other foods. It’s made from wheat and soybeans but it contains 70% less sodium than the regular soy sauce.
The sauce is one major ingredient that completes the spicy Thai dishes. The packaging makes it easy to use since the bottle is easy to squeeze and get the content out of the bottle. This sauce helps to reduce/remove the bad smell from your food.
It is known to produce the best umami flavors which you can use for your ice-creams and muffins.
3. Blue grass soy sauce
This is the only micro-brewed soy sauce that is brewed in the USA. It’s made using Kentucky grown Non-GMO soy beans, soft red winter wheat, pure limestone and spring water. It’s developed and fermented in bourbon barrels which gives it the smoky and broth taste with a mild sweetness reminiscent.
For it to develop a strong aroma and flavor, the barrel should be left to ferment for one whole year. With all these qualities there is no way it wouldn’t win awards.
4. Kishibori shoyu
This is a Japanese premium soy sauce which is normally imported from Japan. The fermentation process of the soy sauce takes place in a 100yrs old barrel. This fermentation in the barrel makes it stand out because it is rich in flavor and a great addition to any food.
It is smooth in taste and well balanced compared to other soy sauces. It further contains a full flavor and is known to be mild. This is a result of the high-quality soybeans that are used. It contains no preservatives, additives or alcohol. It is best used raw although you could also cook it.
5. Pearl River Bridge Golden Label Superior Light Soy Sauce
This Chinese product is naturally brewed. It is brewed in an open air and under the sun for the fermentation process. This enhances the flavor while providing a beautiful color and consistency. You may use it when you are stir-frying, pouring over finished dishes, as a condiment or as a dipping sauce.
The name dark soy sauce denotes its color and the sauce is suitable for marinades as well. It has a fresh fragrant with a clear and pale amber color. It is said to be very salty but with a sweeter finish.
6. Wholly Ganjang
It’s made using only soybeans water and salt. It is specifically gluten free. It also contains no chemicals or additives. This is a homemade soy sauce that is fermented using traditional method which makes it develop the strong tastes and flavor.
It takes 3 years to age which makes it rich in flavor, texture, color and aroma. Since it has a deeper flavor, you only need to use a little bit. This traditional Korean soy sauce is best used when making vegetables, soups, stir-fries and marinades.
For a consistent taste, the sauce is carefully handled during the fermentation.
7. Healthy Boy Brand Mushroom Soy Sauce
This another Thailand product that is produced from selected soybeans and mushrooms. It is dark brown in color is best used for Thai dishes. It’s your best choice when you need to enhance the flavor. It is not only delicious but it also has a mild taste which would complement various dishes.
It uses the real mushroom to make it, unlike others that use the flavoring. It has a deep and earthy flavor.
8. Pearl River Bridge Superior Dark Soy Sauce
This large amount is great for restaurant use or other large establishments. It features one of the most popular brands that is trusted by many. It’s a dark kind of soy sauce that is made with extracts of mushrooms to produce the enhanced and strong flavor.
The method of production includes the open-air fermentation this enhances the color intensity, flavor and its consistency. It works well with marinades, as a condiment/dipping sauce or when stir-frying. The soy sauce is full of flavor.
9. 365 Everyday value
This is a product of the whole food market. The raw materials used to make the product are the kinds that offer exceptional quality. They are also natural and organic products. The selection process of the soybeans ensures that only quality products go to the factory of production.
This is your only organic soy sauce that has a reduced sodium. Since the products used for its production are authentic, the flavors are also enhanced. With a richer color and consistence taste. You need not to use a lot of it as it is a rich product.
10. Kikkoman Soy Sauce
This all-purpose seasoning soy sauce is produced from carefully selected ingredients. It has a balance of wheat, soy beans, salt for a full flavor. The product can be used to enhance Asian dishes as well as western cuisines.
The product has complex flavor, delicate aroma and a nice color that not only enhances the natural flavor but makes the food appealing. It’s convenient and easy to use.
CAN SOY SAUCE GO BAD?
This is a question that is not often asked. Because most people believe that soy sauce can’t go bad. The truth is that they are not entirely right because if you don’t store your soy sauce properly, it will not have a choice but get spoilt.
However, since it normally contains a lot of sodium, the microorganism can’t grow easily in such an environment and no wonder the soy sauce may take years and years without getting spoilt. The quality will diminish though. After opening the soy sauce, use it for at most 2 years.
Note, you should always store it in a cool dry place after you open it.