The Story and Versatile Applications of Soy Sauce Throughout History
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japanese soy sauce

The Story and Versatile Applications of Soy Sauce Throughout History

Chinese soy sauce (or soya sauce in British English) is a liquid condiment traditionally used in Chinese cooking. Soybeans, toasted grain, brine, and moulds like Aspergillus oryzae and Aspergillus sojae are the typical ingredients. The general consensus is that it is a very dominant and flavorful spice. Soy sauce as we know it now originated in China during the Western Han era, around 2,200 years ago. Since then, it has spread around the world and become a staple flavouring in East and South-East Asian cuisine.

Soy sauce has several uses, including as a condiment, a marinade, a seasoning, and a dipping sauce. Common pairings include sushi, spaghetti, rice, and fish. As a dip, combine it with some ground wasabi. Soy sauce, used to impart a salty flavour to a variety of cuisines, is commonly found in bottles on restaurant tables.

The Origins of Soy Sauce

In ancient China, a sauce known as “jan” was widely used, and its descendants are sometimes credited with creating modern soy sauce. The first step was to pickle the raw ingredients in salt so they would keep longer. Fruit, vegetable, seaweed, and grain-based varieties existed, as did meat and fish, meat, and cereals. Soy sauce serves as a prototype for this category of grain products, which also includes rice, wheat, and soybeans. 

It is unclear when it first appeared in Japan under the term “hishio,” but according to the Taiho Code, “hishio” manufactured from soy must be produced at the “hishio institute,” which is a component of the Imperial Household Agency’s cookery division. That hishio was akin to a fusion of soy sauce and miso paste in the current sense. It looks like a dish fit for a king’s table. In 1254 (during the Kamakura era), the Zen monk Kakushin brought the Kinzanji method of making miso paste back from China. Some believe he discovered the deliciousness of the hishio liquid while instructing the inhabitants of Kishu Yuasa in the art of miso-making. We now refer to this as “tamari soy sauce.”

soy sauce origins

Japanese Soy Sauce

Shoyu is the generic name for Japanese soy sauce available for purchase, which is typically produced by fermenting soybeans, wheat, salt, and water. They are often relatively watery and transparent, making them versatile cooking and serving sauces. The world’s largest shoyu market is dominated by Kikkoman soy sauce. 

Soy sauce production techniques claimed to have originated in Kishu Yuasa continued to develop in the years that followed. Soy sauce and miso paste were initially sold by Tamai soy sauce, widely regarded as Japan’s first soy sauce dealer, about 1580 (Tensho period). In 1588 (Tensho 16), it was recorded that Kishu shipped 18,000 L of tamari soy sauce to Osaka. That soy sauce was already a staple in the diets of Osaka residents is supported by this evidence. However, soy sauce had arrived in Kanto but was not being produced there so transportation was being arranged from Kansai. Soy sauce with the “Kudari” prefix indicates that it was shipped all the way from the nation’s capital.

From Japan to the World

It was during the Edo period that Japanese soy sauce first became popular outside of Japan. throughout this time, Nagasaki and Holland were the only two countries with whom Japan traded throughout its period of national isolation. Japanese soy sauce quickly spread throughout the Chinese mainland, Southeast Asia, and even to Holland thanks to the efforts of the Dutch and Chinese merchant marines. Local soy sauce made in Sakai, Osaka, Kyoto, and Kyushu was exported at that time. The term “konpura bottles” refers to the clay containers that were likely used for transport. After then, soy sauce’s popularity as a flavour enhancer skyrocketed over the globe. Soy sauce is now a staple in almost every cuisine because of its widespread use and the recent popularity of Japanese cuisine.

soya sauces

Health Benefits of Soy Sauce

Soy sauce may improve the flavour of food in a number of ways, including masking unpleasant aromas (such as those given off by raw fish), adding colour, and adjusting the pH. The microbes that ferment the sauce make this possible. In a magical three-month process, the yeast fermentation process breaks down elements in the soybeans and wheat to develop the product’s flavour and aromatic qualities using a koji mould (Aspergillus oryzae) that is native only to Japan. All of the ingredients work together to generate harmonious aromas and tastes.

Soy sauce’s salt content and organic acids inhibit the growth of germs like E. coli and can even kill them, and that’s just one of its many advantages. Soy sauce is used in a variety of ways to extend the shelf life of food and generally, it’s safe to say that consuming soy sauce that’s been produced with high-quality, minimally processed ingredients is good for you. 

However, due to its high salt content, soy sauce can be harmful if consumed in large quantities. Soy sauce can be high in sodium, so those who are watching their intake should be very careful, and look for varieties that have lower sodium content.

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