In this article we will talk about one of the main ingredients that accompanies Japanese cuisine, the famous shoyu (醤油) or Soy sauce. Let's answer the following questions about this sauce: What is the origin of soy sauce? What are the benefits of soy sauce? What are the dangers of shoyu? What are the ingredients of Shoyu? How to use soy sauce? These and several other curiosities and questions will be answered in this article.
What is the Origin of Shoyu? The origin of the shoyu is Chinese, records indicate its use around the 500 AD, while Japanese records indicate around the 700 AD. The word shoyu 醤油 is composed of 2 ideograms that mean 醤 (paste or puree, similar to miso.) 油 (oil, fat). In Chinese the ideograms are the same but it is pronounced jiangyou.
Since ancient times, Japan used animals and other vegetables to create preserves and sauces to salt and season food. This must be one of the reasons for the word shoyu to use an ideogram that makes reference to miso paste. Even the famous tamari shoyu used mainly in sushi and sashimi was extracted from miso.
How is shoyu used?
Soy sauce is used to replace salt, add aroma and enhance the color of food and is very popular in all countries in Asia. Shoyu can be used in almost any Asian recipe, including desserts such as dango.
Unlike westerners, in Japanese cuisine, soy sauce is not used in large quantities, in salads or in prepared dishes. Most of the times it is used to season the meat before taking it to the fire, or it is used in recipes before preparing them. Of course, soy sauce and soy products are always available in restaurants for you to season your dish as you like.
Most of the times the soy sauce is used with sugar or it is already sweet. Pure or salty soy sauce is used most often in sushi or sashimi. In reality there are several different types of soy sauce or even other soy sauce that you can confuse with soy sauce, below we will see some types of soy sauce and where they are used:
- Koikuchi (shoyu) - The most common soy sauce. It is salty and has a slightly sweet taste and is rich in umami;
- Tamari - Thicker soy sauce used to eat with sushi, sashimi and make teriyaki;
- Saishikomi - Fermented in soy itself, it is also used in sushi, sashimi and tofu;
- Usukuchi - Originated in Kansai and has 10% more salt than the common and has a light and light color;
- Shiro - Used in soups, shiro is whiter, lighter and more sweet;
How is soy sauce made?
Soy sauce is not entirely composed of soy. Soy is soaked in water, steamed and mixed with roasted and ground wheat, a type of fungus called koji. This mixture is made together with a brine forming the momori which is aged from 6 months to 2 years. After this long fermentation process, it is completed with compression and heating.
Because of the large consumption of soy sauce, this process can be faster (1 week) using a synthetic process where the soy amino acids are separated by hydrolysis, added with caramel and flavorings.
Brazil vs Japan
What is the difference between Brazilian and Japanese sauce? If you are concerned about the amount of sodium, no matter where it was made, you will have plenty of sodium. The difference between each country's soy sauce is in its flavor and color. Brazilian soy sauce tends to be more salty and black, and tends to use the synthetic production method and is full of dye and artificial ingredients. Japanese soy sauce, on the other hand, has several variations, and is usually made with nothing but salt, wheat, soy and fermentation ingredients.
What are the differences in consumption? Unlike Brazilians, the Japanese use very little soy sauce. They avoid soaking the sushi rice, and only lightly soak the fish.
What are the dangers and benefits of soy sauce?
The main danger of soy sauce is its high sodium content. It is recommended to eat a maximum of 1 to 2 tablespoons of soy sauce a day. Therefore, we recommend that you do not use soy sauce in salads or in recipes that require a large amount. But sodium is not the only danger, unfortunately we have to be smart with any type of industrialized product.
But as it is composed of soy it is rich in proteins, iron, calcium and vitamins and mainly vitamin B. Soy and its derivatives have antioxidant action and help prevent diseases such as osteoporosis and cancer. Thus it is necessary to have discernment and know the best way to consume this sauce and its derivatives.