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Soy sauce (also called soya sauce) is a condiment made from a fermented paste of boiled soybeans, roasted grain, brine, and Aspergillus oryzae or Aspergillus sojae molds. After fermentation, the paste is pressed, producing a liquid, which is the soy sauce, and a solid byproduct, which is often used as animal feed. Soy sauce is a traditional ingredient in East and Southeast Asian cuisines, where it is used in cooking and as a condiment. It originated in China in the 2nd century BCE and spread throughout Asia. Today, it is used in Western cuisine and prepared foods.
Soy sauce has a distinct basic taste called umami (旨味?, "pleasant savory taste") in Japanese, due to naturally occurring free glutamates. Umami was identified as a basic taste in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda of the Tokyo Imperial University.
Most varieties of soy sauce are salty, earthy, brownish liquids intended to season food while cooking or at the table. Many kinds of soy sauce are made in China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Burma and other countries. Variation is usually achieved as the result of different methods and durations of fermentation, different ratios of water, salt, and fermented soy, or through the addition of other ingredients.
- 1 History
- 2 Production
- 3 Types
- 4 Nutrition
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Soy sauce originated in China sometime between the 3rd and 5th century from an older meat-based fermented sauce named jiang. Its use later spread to East and Southeast Asia. Like many salty condiments, soy sauce was probably originally a way to stretch salt, historically an expensive commodity. In ancient China, fermented fish with salt was used as a condiment in which soybeans were included during the fermentation process. Eventually, this was replaced and the recipe for soy sauce, jiangyou (酱油), using soybeans as principal ingredient, with fermented fish-based sauces developing separately into fish sauce.
Records of the Dutch East India Company list soy sauce as a commodity in 1737, when seventy-five large barrels were shipped from Dejima, Japan, to Batavia (present-day Jakarta) on the island of Java. Thirty-five barrels from that shipment were then shipped to the Netherlands. In the 18th century, Isaac Titsingh published accounts of brewing soy sauce. Although earlier descriptions of soy sauce had been disseminated in the West, this was among the earliest to focus specifically on the brewing of the Japanese version. By the mid-19th century, the Japanese soy sauce gradually disappeared from the European market, and soy sauce became synonymous with the Chinese product. Europeans were unable to make soy sauce because they did not understand the function of Aspergillus oryzae, the fungus used in its brewing.
One 19th century writer wrote that in China, the best soy sauce is "made by boiling beans soft, adding an equal quantity of wheat or barley, and leaving the mass to ferment; a portion of salt and three times as much water are afterwards put in, and the whole compound left for two or three months when the liquid is pressed and strained".
Soy sauce is made either by fermentation or by hydrolysis. Some commercial sauces have both fermented and chemical sauces.
Traditional soy sauces are made by mixing soybeans and grain with mold cultures such as Aspergillus oryzae and other related microorganisms and yeasts (the resulting mixture is called "koji" in Japan; the term "koji" is used both for the mixture of soybeans, wheat, and mold as well as for the mold itself). Historically, the mixture was fermented naturally in large urns and under the sun, which was believed to contribute extra flavors. Today, the mixture is placed in a temperature and humidity controlled incubation chamber.
Traditional soy sauces take months to make:
- Soaking and cooking: The soybeans are soaked in water and boiled until cooked. Wheat is roasted, crushed.
- Koji culturing: An equal amount of boiled soybeans and roasted wheat are mixed to form a grain mixture. A culture of Aspergillus spore is added to the grain mixture and mixed or the mixture is allowed to gather spores from the environment itself. The cultures include:
- Aspergillus: a genus of fungus that is used for fermenting various ingredients (the cultures are called koji in Japanese). Three species are used for brewing soy sauce:
- Saccharomyces cerevisiae: the yeasts in the culture convert some of the sugars to ethanol which can undergo secondary reactions to make other flavor compounds
- Other microbes contained in the culture:
- Bacillus spp. (genus): This organism is likely to grow soy sauce ingredients, bring to generate odors and ammonia.
- Lactobacillus species: This organism make a lactic acid increases the acidity in the feed.
- Brewing: The cultured grain mixture is mixed into a specific amount of salt brine for wet fermentation or with coarse salt for dry fermentation and left to brew. Over time, the Aspergillus mold on the soy and wheat break down the grain proteins into free amino acid and protein fragments and starches into simple sugars. This amino-glycosidic reaction gives soy sauce its dark brown color. Lactic acid bacteria ferments the sugars into lactic acid and yeast makes ethanol, which through aging and secondary fermentation makes numerous flavor compounds typical of soy sauce.
- Pressing: The fully fermented grain slurry is placed into cloth-lined containers and pressed to separate the solids from the liquid soy sauce. The isolated solids are used as fertilizer or fed to animals while the liquid soy sauce is processed further.
- Pasteurization: The raw soy sauce is heated to eliminate any active yeasts and molds remaining in the soy sauce and can be filtered to remove any fine particulates
- Storage: The soy sauce can be aged or directly bottled and sold.
Acid-hydrolyzed vegetable protein
Some brands of soy sauce are made from acid-hydrolyzed soy protein instead of brewed with a traditional culture. This takes about three days. Although they have a different flavor, aroma, and texture when compared to brewed soy sauces, they have a longer shelf-life and are usually made for this reason. The clear plastic packets of dark sauce common with Chinese-style take out food typically use a hydrolyzed vegetable protein formula. Some higher-quality hydrolyzed vegetable protein products with no added salt, sugar or colorings are sold as low-sodium soy sauce alternatives called "liquid aminos" in health food stores, similar to the way salt substitutes are used. These products are, however, not necessarily low in sodium.
Soy sauce is widely used as an important flavoring and has been integrated into the traditional cuisines of many East Asian and Southeast Asian cultures. Despite their rather similar appearance, soy sauces made in different cultures and regions are different in taste, consistency, fragrance and saltiness. Soy sauce retains its quality longer when kept away from direct sunlight.
Chinese soy sauces, jiangyou/jeong yau (trad.: 醬油 / simpl.: 酱油) or chiyou/siyau (豉油), is primarily made from soybeans, with relatively low amounts of other grains. Chinese soy sauce can be roughly split into two classes which can be brewed or blended.
Soy sauce that have been brewed directly from a fermentation process using wheat, soybeans, salt, and water without additional additives.
- Light or fresh soy sauce (生抽 shēngchōu/saang chau or 酱清 jiàngqīng/jeong tsing): is a thin (low viscosity), opaque, lighter brown soy sauce, brewed by first culturing steamed wheat and soybeans with Aspergillus, and then letting the mixture ferment in brine. It is the main soy sauce used for seasoning, since it is saltier, has less noticeable color, and also adds a distinct flavor.
- Tóuchōu/tau chau (頭抽): The light soy sauce made from the first pressing of the soybeans, 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. Due to its delicate flavor it is used primarily for seasoning light dishes and for dipping.
- Shuānghuáng/Seong wong (雙璜): A light soy sauce that is double-fermented by using the light soy sauce from another batch to take the place of brine for a second brewing. This adds further complexity to the flavor of the light soy sauce. Due to its complex flavor this soy sauce is used primarily for dipping.
- Yìnyóu/Yaam yau (蔭油): A darker soy sauce brewed primarily in Taiwan by culturing only steamed soybeans with Aspergillus and mixing the cultured soybeans with coarse rock salt before undergoing prolonged dry fermentation. The flavor of this soy sauce is complex and rich and is used for dipping or in red cooking. For the former use, yinyou can be thickened with starch to make a thick soy sauce.
Additives with sweet or umami (savory) tastes are sometimes added to a finished brewed soy sauce to modify its taste and texture.
- Dark and old soy sauce (老抽 lǎochōu/lou chau), a darker and slightly thicker soy sauce made from light soy sauce. This soy sauce is made through prolonged aging and added caramel color, and may contain added molasses to give it its distinctive appearance. This variety is mainly used during cooking, since its flavor develops during heating. It has a richer, slightly sweeter, and less salty flavor than light soy sauce. Dark soy sauce is partly used to add color and flavor to a dish after cooking, but, as stated above, is more often used during the cooking process, rather than after.
- Mushroom dark soy (草菇老抽 cǎogū lǎochōu/tsou gu lou chau): In the finishing and aging process of making dark soy sauce, the broth of Volvariella volvacea mixed into the soy sauce and is then exposed to the sun to make this type of dark soy. The added broth gives this soy sauce a richer flavor than plain dark soy sauce.
- Thick soy sauce (醬油膏 jiàngyóugāo/jeong yau gou), is a dark soy sauce that has been thickened with starch and sugar and occasionally flavored with certain spices and MSG. This sauce is often used as a dipping sauce or finishing sauce and poured on food as a flavorful addition, however due to its sweetness and caramelized flavors from its production process the sauce is also used in red cooking.
- Shrimp soy sauce (蝦子醬油 Xiā zǐ jiàngyóu/Ha tsi jeong yau): Fresh soy sauce is simmered with fresh shrimp and finished with sugar, baijiu (type of distilled liquor, 白酒), and spices. A specialty of Suzhou.
Shōyu is traditionally divided into five main categories depending on differences in their ingredients and method of production. Most, but not all Japanese soy sauces include wheat as a primary ingredient, which tends to give them a slightly sweeter taste than their Chinese counterparts. They also tend towards an alcoholic sherry-like flavor, sometimes enhanced by the addition of small amounts of alcohol as a natural preservative. The widely varying flavors of these soy sauces are not always interchangeable, some recipes only call for one type or the other, much like a white wine cannot replace a red's flavor or beef stock does not make the same results as fish stock.
Some soy sauces made in the Japanese way or styled after them contain about fifty percent wheat.
- Koikuchi (濃口?, "thick flavor"): 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 made 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 (薄口?, "weak taste"): Particularly popular in the Kansai region of Japan, it is both saltier and lighter in color than koikuchi. The lighter color arises from the use of amazake, a sweet liquid made from fermented rice, that is used in its production.
- Tamari (たまり?): Made mainly in the Chūbu region of Japan, tamari is darker in appearance and richer in flavor than koikuchi. It contains little or no wheat. Wheat-free tamari can be used by people with gluten intolerance. 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. The Japanese word tamari is derived from the verb tamaru (溜る?) that signifies "to accumulate", referring to the fact that tamari was traditionally a liquid byproduct made during the fermentation of miso (type of seasoning). Japan is the leading producer of tamari.
- Shiro (白?, "white"): 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 shōyu (甘露醤油) or "sweet shōyu".
Newer varieties of Japanese soy sauce include:
- Gen'en (減塩?, "reduced salt"): This version contains 50% less salt than regular shōyu for consumers concerned about heart disease.
- Usujio (薄塩?, "light salt"): This version contains 20% less salt than regular shōyu.
All of these varieties are sold in the marketplace in three different grades according to how they were made:
- Honjōzō (本醸造?, "genuine fermented"): Contains 100% genuine fermented product
- Kongō-jōzō (混合醸造?, "mixed fermented"): Contains genuine fermented shōyu mash mixed with 30–50% of chemical or enzymatic hydrolysate of plant protein
- Kongō (混合?, "mixed"): Contains Honjōzō or Kongō-jōzō shōyu mixed with 30–50% of chemical or enzymatic hydrolysate of plant protein
All the varieties and grades may be sold according to three official levels of quality:
- Hyōjun (標準?): Standard grade, contains more than 1.2% total nitrogen
- Jōkyū (上級 ?): Upper grade, contains more than 1.35% of total nitrogen
- Tokkyū (特級?): Special grade, contains more than 1.5% of total nitrogen
Soy sauce is also commonly known as shoyu, and less commonly shōyu, in Hawaii and Brazil.
In Indonesia, soy sauce is known as kecap (also ketjap), which is a catch-all term for fermented sauces, and cognate to the English word "ketchup". The term kecap is also uses to describe other non soy-based sauces, such as kecap ikan (fish sauce) and kecap inggris (worcestershire sauce). Three common varieties of Indonesian soy-based kecap 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 some recipes. Salty soy sauce was first introduced into Indonesia by Hokkien people so its taste resembles that of Chinese soy sauce. Hakka soy sauce made from black beans is very salty and large productions are mainly made in Bangka Belitung Islands.
- Kecap manis : Sweet soy sauce, which has a thick, almost syrupy consistency and a unique, pronounced, sweet somewhat treacle-like flavor due to generous addition of palm sugar. In cooking, it could be replaced by molasses with a little vegetable stock stirred in. However this is different than the smooth and mild sweetness of palm sugar and the strong flavor of fermented soy, as molasses can tend to have bitter flavors.
- Kecap manis sedang : Medium sweet soy sauce, which has a less thick consistency, is less sweet and has a saltier taste than kecap manis.
In Indonesian cuisine, kecap are used either within cooking process or as condiment. Kecap manis is an important sauce in Indonesian signature dishes, such as nasi goreng, mie goreng, satay, tongseng and semur. Sambal kecap for example is type of sambal dipping sauce of kecap manis with sliced chili, tomato and shallot, a popular dipping sauce for sate kambing (goat meat satay) and ikan bakar (grilled fish/seafood). Since soy sauce is Chinese origin, kecap asin is also an important seasoning in Chinese Indonesian cuisine.
Korean soy sauce, (called Joseon ganjang, 조선간장, in Korean) is a byproduct of the production of doenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste). It is mainly used in making soups, seasoning, and dip sauce. Joseon ganjang, thin and dark brown in color, is made entirely of soy and brine, and has a saltiness that varies according to the maker. 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.
Burmese or Myanmar
Burmese soy sauce production is dated back to the Bagan era in the 9th and 10th century. Scripts written in praise of pe ngan byar yay (, literally "bean fish sauce") were found. Production increased during the Konbaung dynasty, circa 1700, when there was bolstered migration of ethnic groups from the north to boost and modify the production of silk in Amarapura. Thick soy sauce is called kya nyo (, from Chinese jiangyou 醬油).
A soy sauce based product popular in the Philippines is called toyo, usually found alongside other sauces such as fish sauce (patis) and sugar cane vinegar (sukâ). The flavor of Philippine soy sauce is a combination of soybeans, wheat, salt, and caramel color. It is thinner in texture and has a saltier taste than its Southeast Asian counterparts, similar to Japanese shōyu. It is used as a marinade, an ingredient in cooked dishes, and a table condiment. It is usually mixed and served with calamansi, a small Asian, lime-like citrus fruit. The combination is known as toyomansi which can be comparable to the Japanese ponzu sauce (soy sauce with lemon). It is also a main ingredient in the preparation of the Filipino national dish, chicken (and/or pork) adobo.
Soy sauce (shoyu) is a very popular condiment and marinade for many Hawaiian food dishes in the cuisine of Hawaii.
Singapore and Malaysian
In Mandarin Chinese spoken in Malaysia and Singapore, soy sauce in general is referred to as dòuyóu (豆油), a Mandarin transliteration of the Hokkien term for the sauce or jiàngyóu (醬油); light soy sauce is jiàngqīng (醬清). Angmo daoiu (紅毛豆油, lit. "foreigners' soy sauce") is the Hokkien name for Worcestershire sauce.
Malays from Malaysia, using the Malay dialect similar to Indonesian, use the word kicap for soy sauce. Kicap is traditionally of two types: kicap lemak (lit "fat/rich soy sauce") and kicap cair. Kicap lemak is similar to Indonesian kecap manis but with very much less sugar while kicap cair is the Malaysian equivalent of kecap asin.
The history of soy sauce making in Taiwan can be traced back to southeastern China, in the provinces of Fujian and Guangdong. Taiwanese soy sauce is known for its black bean variant, known as black bean soy sauce (黑豆蔭油), which takes longer to make (about 6 months). Most major soy sauce makers in Taiwan make soy sauce made from soybeans and wheat. Some make black bean soy sauce.
In Vietnam, Chinese-style soy sauce is called xì dầu (derived from the Cantonese name 豉油) or nước tương. The term "soy sauce" could also imply other condiments and soy bean paste with thick consistency known as tương. Both are used mostly as a seasoning or dipping sauce for a number of dishes. Vietnamese cuisine itself favors fish sauce in cooking but nước tương has a clear presence in vegetarian cooking.
The most common type of soy sauce found in Brazil is the Japanese type (shōyu), due to influence of Japanese immigration. There are some differences between the shōyu sold in the Brazilian market and that found in the Japanese market. For example, Sakura, the market-leading Brazilian brand for soy sauce, features a 35% less salt variety (instead of the Japanese standards 20% and 50%) and all of its soy sauce is gluten free (it uses maize instead of wheat in the fermentation process).
A study by the National University of Singapore showed 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 level of isoflavones associated with other soy products such as tofu or edamame. It can also be very salty, having a salt content of between 14–18%. Low-sodium soy sauces are made, but it is difficult to make soy sauce without using some quantity of salt as an antimicrobial agent.
100ml of soy sauce contains the following nutritional information according to the USDA:
- Calories : 60
- Fat: 0.1 g
- Carbohydrates: 5.57 g
- Fibers: 0.8 g
- Protein: 10.51 g
- Sodium: 6 g
In 2001 the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency found in testing various soy sauces manufactured in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Thailand (made from hydrolyzed soy protein, rather than being naturally fermented) that 22% of tested samples, contained a chemical carcinogens named 3-MCPD (3-monochloropropane-1,3-diol) at levels considerably higher than those deemed safe by the EU. About two-thirds of these samples also contained a second carcinogens chemical named 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. 3-MCPD and 1,3-DCP. The same carcinogens were found in soy sauces manufactured in Vietnam, causing a food scare in 2007.
In Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society writes, "Health Canada has concluded that there is no health risk to Canadians from use of available soy and oyster sauces. Because continuous lifetime exposure to high levels of 3-MCPD could pose a health risk, Health Canada has established 1.0 part per million (ppm) as a guideline for importers of these sauces, in order to reduce Canadians' long-term exposure to this chemical. This is considered to be a very safe level."
Most varieties of soy sauce contain wheat, to which some people have a medical intolerance. However, some naturally brewed soy sauces made with wheat may be tolerated by people with a specific intolerance to gluten because gluten is not detectable in the finished product. Japanese tamari soy sauce is traditionally wheat-free, and some tamari available commercially today is wheat- and gluten-free.
- OCLC 9752305
- expand by hand—on the production of soy sauce