), soya sauce
) or sillao
) is a fermented sauce
made from soybeans
(soya beans), roasted grain
. Soy sauce was invented in China, where it has been used as a condiment
for close to 2,500 years. In its various forms it is widely used in East and Southeast Asian cuisines
and increasingly appears in Western cuisine
and prepared foods.
Authentic soy sauces are made by mixing the grain and/or soybeans with yeast or kōji
, the mold Aspergillus oryzae
or A. sojae
) and other related microorganisms
. Traditionally soy sauces were fermented under natural conditions, such as in giant urns and under the sun, which was believed to contribute to additional flavours. Today, most of the commercially-produced counterparts are fermented under machine-controlled environments instead.
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. Soy sauce has a distinct basic taste called umami by the Japanese (鮮味, literally "fresh taste"). Umami was first identified as a basic taste in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda of the Tokyo Imperial University. The free glutamates which naturally occur in soy sauce are what give it this taste quality.
Soy sauce should be stored away from direct sunlight.
Many cheaper brands of soy sauces are made from hydrolyzed soy protein
instead of brewed from natural bacterial and fungal cultures. These soy sauces do not have the natural color of authentic soy sauces and are typically colored with caramel coloring
. Similar products are also sold as "liquid aminos" in the US and Canada.
Some artificial soy sauces posed potential health risks due to their content of the chloropropanols 3-MCDP (3-chloro-1,2-propanediol) and 1,3-DCP (1,3-dichloro-2-propanol) which are minor byproducts of the hydrochloric acid hydrolysis .
Soy sauce has been integrated into the traditional cuisines of many East Asian
and South East Asian
cultures. Soy sauce is widely used as a particularly important flavoring in Japanese
, and Chinese cuisine
. However, it is important to note that despite its rather similar appearance, soy sauces produced in different cultures and regions are very different in taste, consistency, fragrance and saltiness. As such, it may not be appropriate to substitute soy sauces of one culture or region for another.
Chinese soy sauce
Chinese soy sauce (jiàngyóu/chǐyóu, 酱油/豉油) is primarily made from soybeans, with relatively low amounts of other grains. There are two main varieties:
- Light or fresh soy sauce ("shēngchōu"; 生抽 or "jiàng qing"; 酱清): A thin (non-viscous), opaque, dark brown soy sauce. It is the main soy sauce used for seasoning, since it is saltier, but it also adds flavour. Since it is lighter in color, it does not greatly affect the color of the dish. The light soy sauce made from the first pressing of the soybeans is called tóuchōu (头抽 or 頭抽), which can be loosely translated as first soy sauce or referred to as premium light soy sauce. Touchōu is sold at a premium because, like extra virgin olive oil, the flavor of the first pressing is considered superior. An additional classification of light soy sauce, shuānghuáng (雙璜), is double-fermented to add further complexity to the flavour. These latter two more delicate types are usually for dipping.
- Dark/old soy sauce ("lǎochōu"; 老抽) : A darker and slightly thicker soy sauce that is aged longer and contains added molasses to give it its distinctive appearance. This variety is mainly used during cooking since its flavour develops under heating. It has a richer, slightly sweeter, and less salty flavour than light soy sauce. Dark soy sauce is partly used to add color and flavour to a dish.
In traditional Chinese cooking, one of the two types, or a mixture of both, is employed to achieve a particular flavour and colour for the dish.
- Thick soy sauce ("jiàngyóugāo", 醬油膏 or 蔭油膏): Dark soy sauce that has been thickened with starch and sugar. It is also occasionally flavored with MSG. This sauce is not usually used directly in cooking but more often as a dipping sauce or poured on food as a flavorful addition.
- Dark soy paste (huángjiàng, 黄酱): Although not really a soy sauce, it is another salty soy product. It is one of the main ingredients in a dish called zhajiang mian (炸酱面, lit. "fried paste noodles").
Japanese soy sauce
Buddhist monks introduced soy sauce into Japan in the 7th century, where it is known as "shoyu". The Japanese word "tamari" is derived from the verb "tamaru" that signifies "to accumulate," referring to the fact that tamari was traditionally from the liquid byproduct produced during the fermentation of miso. Japan is the leading producer of tamari.
Japanese soy sauce or shō-yu (しょうゆ, or 醤油), is traditionally divided into 5 main categories depending on differences in their ingredients and method of production. Japanese soy sauces include wheat as a primary ingredient and this tends to give them a slightly sweeter taste than their Chinese counterparts. They also have an alcoholic sherry-like flavor. Not all soy sauces are interchangeable. Koikuchi (濃口) : Originating in the Kantō region, 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. This variety is also called kijōyu (生醤油) or namashōyu (生しょうゆ) when it is not pasteurized. Usukuchi (淡口) : Particularly popular in the Kansai region of Japan, it is both saltier and lighter in color than koikuchi. The lighter color arises from the usage of amazake, a sweet liquid made from fermented rice, that is used in its production. Tamari (たまり) : Produced mainly in the Chūbu region of Japan, tamari is darker in appearance and richer in flavour than koikuchi. It contains little or no wheat; wheat-free tamari is popular among people eating a wheat free diet. It is the "original" Japanese soy sauce, as its recipe is closest to the soy sauce originally introduced to Japan from China. Technically, this variety is known as miso-damari (味噌溜り), as this is the liquid that runs off miso as it matures. Shiro (白, "white") : A very light colored 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. It is more commonly used in the Kansai region to highlight the appearances of food, for example sashimi. Saishikomi (再仕込, twice-brewed) : This variety substitutes previously-made koikuchi for the brine normally used in the process. Consequently, it is much darker and more strongly flavored. This type is also known as kanro shoyu (甘露醤油) or "sweet shoyu".
Newer varieties of Japanese soy sauce include: Gen'en (減塩, "reduced salt") : Low-salt soy sauces also exist, but are not considered to be a separate variety of soy sauce, since the reduction in salt content is a process performed outside of the standard manufacture of soy sauce. Amakuchi (甘口) : Called "Hawaiian soy sauce" in those few parts of the US familiar with it, this is a variant of "koikuchi" soy sauce.
All of these varieties are sold in the marketplace in three different grades according to how they were produced: Honjōzō hōshiki (本醸造 方式) : Contains 100% naturally fermented product. Shinshiki hōshiki (新式 方式) : Contains 30-50% naturally fermented product. Tennen jōzō (天然 醸造) : Means no added ingredients except alcohol.
All the varieties and grades may be sold according to three official levels of quality:
Hyōjun (標準) : Standard pasteurized. Tokkyū (特級) : Special quality, not pasteurized. Tokusen (特選) : Premium quality, usually implies limited quantity.
Other terms unrelated to the three official levels of quality: Hatsuakane (初茜) : Refers to industrial grade used for flavoring, powder. Chōtokusen (超特選) : Used by marketers to imply the best.
Perhaps the most well-known producer of Japanese soy sauce is the Kikkoman Corporation.
Taiwanese soy sauce
The history of soy sauce making in Taiwan can be traced back to southeastern China, in the provinces of Fujian
. Later, the cultural and political separation between Taiwan and China since the end of the First Sino-Japanese War
in 1895, when China ceded Taiwan to Japan, brought changes to traditional Chinese soy sauce making in Taiwan. Some of the top Taiwanese makers, such as Wan Ja Shan, Wei-Wong and Ve-Chung have adopted the more sophisticated Japanese technology in making soy sauce for the domestic market and more recently foreign markets as well.
Korean soy sauce
Korean soy sauce
, (called Joseon ganjang
, 조선간장, in Korean) is a byproduct of the production of doenjang
(Korean fermented soybean paste
). Joseon ganjang
, thin and dark brown in color, is made entirely of soy and brine, and has a saltiness that varies according to the producer. Wide scale use of Joseon ganjang
has been somewhat superseded by cheaper factory-made Japanese style soy sauce, called waeganjang
(hangul: 왜간장/倭간장). According to the 2001 national food consumption survey in Korea, traditional fermented ganjang
comprised only 1.4% of soy sauce purchases.
Vietnamese soy sauce
Vietnamese soy sauce is called xì dầu
, nước tương
, or sometimes simply tương
Indonesian soy sauce
In Indonesia, soy sauce is known as kecap (or ketjap) (a catchall term for fermented sauces) from which according to one theory the English word "ketchup" is derived. Two main varieties exist: Kecap asin : Salty soy sauce, which is very similar to Chinese light soy sauce, but usually somewhat thicker and has a stronger flavor; it can be replaced by light Chinese soy sauce in recipes. Kecap manis : Sweet soy sauce, which has a thick, almost syrupy consistency and a pronounced sweet, treacle-like flavor due to generous addition of palm sugar. It is a unique variety; in a pinch, it may be replaced by molasses with a little vegetable stock stirred in.
Kecap inggris ("English fermented sauce"), or saus inggris ("English sauce") is the Indonesian name for Worcestershire sauce. Kecap Ikan is Indonesian fish sauce.
Malaysian soy sauce
, soy sauce in general is dòuyóu (豆油); dark soy sauce is called jiàngyóu (醬油) and light soy sauce is jiàngqīng (醬清). Angmoh tauyew
(紅貌豆油, lit. "foreigners' soy sauce") is the Hokkien
name for Worcestershire sauce
Malaysia, which has cultural links with Indonesia, uses the word 'kicap' for soy sauce. Kicap is traditionally of two types: kicap lemak and kicap cair. Kicap lemak is similar to kecap manis but with very much less sugar while kicap cair is the Malaysian equivalent of kecap asin.
A popular condiment in the Philippines
, it is called toyo
(pronounced TOH-yoh), and is usually found beside other sauces such as patis (fish sauce, pronounced pah-TEES)
(sugar cane vinegar, pronounced SOO-kah). The flavor of Filipino soy sauce, made from soybeans, wheat, salt, and caramel, is interestingly milder compared to its Asian counterparts--possibly an adaptation to the demands of the Filipino palate and its cuisine. It is thinner in texture and has a saltier taste compared to its Southeast Asian counterparts, much more similar to the Japanese shōyu
. It is used as a staple condiment to flavor many cooked dishes and as a marinade during cooking, it is also a table condiment, and is usually mixed and served with kalamansi
(a small Asian citrus-lime). Popular Philippine brands are Marca Piña, Silver Swan, Lauriat, Datu Puti, Toyomansi and UFC.
A unique type of soy sauce produced by Aloha Shoyu Company since 1946 is a special blend of soybeans, wheat
, and salt
, historically common among local Hawaii
residents. Hawaii residents rarely use the term "soy sauce," opting to use the Japanese loanword "shoyu" instead. However, while the Japanese word shōyu
is pronounced like show you
, Hawaii residents prounounce the word like shoi-yu
A study by National University of Singapore
shows that Chinese dark soy sauce contains 10 times the antioxidants
of red wine
, and can help prevent cardiovascular diseases
. Soy sauce is rich in lactic acid bacteria
and of excellent anti-allergic potential.
Soy sauce does not contain the beneficial isoflavones
associated with other soy products such as tofu
. It can also be very salty
, so it may not be a suitable condiment
for people on a low sodium diet. Low-sodium soy sauces are produced, but it is impossible to make soy sauce without using some quantity of salt.
In 2001 the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency found in tests of various low-grade soy sauces (those made from hydrolyzed soy protein, rather than being naturally fermented) that some 22% of samples contained a chemical called 3-MCPD (3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol) at levels considerably higher than those deemed safe by the European Union. About two-thirds of these samples also contained a second chemical called 1,3-DCP (1,3-dichloropropane-2-ol) which experts advise should not be present at any levels in food. Both chemicals have the potential to cause cancer and the Agency recommended that the affected products be withdrawn from shelves and avoided.
In order to evade conscription in Japan during World War II, people were known to drink large quantities of soy sauce to damage their kidneys.
Soy sauce and allergies
Most varieties of soy sauce also contain wheat. Individuals with a wheat allergy, Celiac disease, or a gluten intolerance should avoid this condiment and dishes seasoned with soy sauce.