Soy sauce: how to choose and cook it well: Femme Actuelle Le MAG


Contrary to popular belief, soy sauce was not born in Japan but in ancient China 2500 years ago, where it was used to preserve food. Composed of soybeans, water and sea salt, it was enriched with wheat flour passing through Japan around the 7th century. An addition that gives it a beautiful aromatic power.

Honorable mention

Naturally fermented (or naturally brewed, in English): this is a statement that absolutely must appear on the bottle. Fermentation can last several weeks to several years depending on the desired sauce. On the list of ingredients, there are soybeans, wheat (for Japanese sauces), water, salt – essential for the fermentation process – and zero preservatives, artificial colors or flavor enhancers. You can also buy reduced-salt soy sauce, which is then partially removed after fermentation. Soy sauce can be stored at room temperature because the salt acts as a preservative, but it will keep its aromas longer when stored in the refrigerator, once opened.

colors and textures

The best sauces of Japanese origin are of a pretty amber-brown and transparent color, while the Chinese sauce is rather dark. In terms of texture, it must be neither too fluid nor too thick, with a slightly beading consistency. With the exception of the Chinese sauce which is more syrupy, saltier and stronger in taste.

Industrial version

Beware of soy sauces which are not produced by natural fermentation, but by a much faster chemical hydrolysis process (2 to 3 days). They have neither the same flavor nor the same culinary qualities as the “real” ones. In their composition, we generally find soy extracts (and not seeds) and the list of ingredients is sometimes very (too) long: corn syrup, glucose syrup, molasses, dyes… They generally have a thicker consistency, strong smell and much less aromatic flavor than authentic soy sauce. And a few drops too much can ruin a dish!

A very precious condiment

Aromatic, with a pleasantly spicy fragrance, a rich and round flavor in the mouth, soy sauce can replace salt, pepper or vinegar at the table or in a recipe. It gets along wonderfully with pepper, chilli, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, onion, and lemon. It is delicious cooked or raw, in a dish of meat, fish, vegetables, a salad, a tartare, a carpaccio.

In a marinade, soy sauce is used to tenderize the flesh. It is also used in icing and lacquering with balsamic vinegar, caramel or honey, on meat, fish or vegetables. It is perfect for deglazing a steak, flavoring a mushroom omelette, making an express dipping sauce with a little yogurt and pepper. Reduced for a few minutes over high heat, it thickens and decorates the plates with gourmet drops and arabesques.

Which soy sauce for which dish?

The koikuchi shoyu (the sauce you probably have in your cupboards) is the best known and the most used here as in Japan (80% of local production). With its 50% soy and 50% wheat, it is not too salty, balanced and versatile, since it really goes with everything. Generally pasteurized, it is also found raw, unpasteurized (nama-shōyu). This latest version does not keep as long as its cousin, but it has a more complex and interesting flavour.

The usukuchi shoyu, lighter is a little more salty and sometimes slightly sweeter (when it contains a little glucose) than koikuchi. It is also called light soy sauce (light soy sauce) because it ferments for less time. It is eaten with meat, white fish, and all vegetables.

The tamari shoyu, less common, with a beautiful intense color and a powerful taste is a soy sauce produced with about 90% soybeans for a maximum of 10% wheat. As it contains very little wheat (and sometimes none at all), it is aimed, among others, at those allergic and intolerant to gluten. Purists consider it “authentic” because it is the closest thing to Chinese sauce. Traditionally, tamari accompanies sashimi. This is why it is also called sashimi tamari.

Saishikomi shoyu, stronger in taste and darker than Koikuchi, does not have a gram of salt. Also called Kanro-shoyu (sweet shoyu), it is eaten with sushi, sashimi and tofu. It is very popular in the West (and very little in Japan, which manufactures it for export).

The shiro shoyu or white soy sauce is made with a lot of wheat and very little soy (the opposite of Tamari). Clearer and sweeter, it is used with noodles, soups and dishes.

And the others… In Indonesia, we taste a very sweet soy sauce (kecap manis), a mixture of palm sugar, soy sauce, and sometimes spices which represents 90% of the production. In Thailand, there is a black soy sauce (sii-íu dam) which resembles Chinese soy sauce, but less salty.

Article published in the special issue Woman Current “The sun in the plate” of June 2022.

© Current Woman

Read also :

⋙ 7 unusual ways to use soy sauce in cooking

⋙ Quinoa-broccoli croquettes, spicy soy sauce

⋙ Homemade yakitori sauce

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