Soy sauce

Soy Sauce (Soya Sauce)
Chinese Name
Pinyinjing yu
Mandarin Chinese (Traditional)醬油
Mandarin Chinese (Simplified)酱油
Cantonese豉油, see yau
Japanese Name
Hepburn Romajishō-yu
Korean Name
Revised Romanizationganjang

Soy sauce (US) or soya sauce (UK) is a fermented sauce, made from soybeans (soya beans), roasted grain, water and sea salt (US will use salt unless otherwise stated). Commonly used in Asian cuisine, and in some Western cuisine dishes, especially Worcestershire sauce or de:Maggi. Authentic soy sauces are fermented with kōji ((麹) - the mold Aspergillus oryzae), wheat, and other related microorganisms. Virtually all soy sauce has some alcohol added during bottling to aid as a preservative for shipping and sale. For this reason, soy sauce should always be kept refrigerated and out of direct light, due to spoilage.

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. Although it originated in China, it is used in various cuisines across Asia. In particular, it is an important flavoring in Japanese cuisine. However, Chinese and Japanese soy sauces are substantially different, and it is rarely appropriate to substitute one for the other.


Chinese Soy Sauce

The Chinese soy sauces are primarily made from soybean, with relatively low amounts of other grains. There are three main varieties:

  • shēngchōu (生抽) Light/fresh soy sauce - a thin, clear, light brown sauce. It is the main soy used for cooking, as its lighter color does not greatly affect the colour of the dish.
  • lǎochōu (老抽) Dark/old soy sauce - a dark, thick soy sauce, is aged longer and added with molasses to give it its distinctive look. This variety is mainly used as a table top seasoning, but is also used in cooking. It has a richer flavour than light soy sauce, but is less salty.
  • Thick soy sauce - as its name implies, in Indochina this is known as kecap.

Japanese Soy Sauce

The Japanese soy sauce, or shō-yu (しょうゆ, or 醤油, 正油) - is traditionally divided into five main categories, depending on differences in their ingredients and method of production. Japanese soy sauces include wheat as a primary ingredient. This tends to give the Japanese varieties a slightly sweeter taste than the Chinese soy sauces.

  • Koikuchi (濃口) - Originating in the Kantō region of Japan, 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 implied as Kijōyu (生醤油) or namashōyu (生しょうゆ) when it is not pasteurized.
  • Usukuchi (薄口) - Particular 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) in its production.
  • Tamari (たまり) - Produced mainly in the Chūbu region of Japan, "tamari" is produced mainly from soybean, with only a small amount of wheat. Consequently, it is much darker in appearance and richer in flavour than "koikuchi". 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. More common in the Kansai region to highlight the appearances of food, for example sashimi.
  • Saishikomi (再仕込) - This variety is brewed in soy sauce instead of salt water. Consequently, it is much darker than "koikuchi", and has a much stronger and richer flavour. Historically, this type was known as kanro (甘露) as it was made for the emperor and he liked his sweet dew.
  • genen (減塩) - Low-salt soy sauces also exist, but is not considered to be a separate variety of soy sauce, since the reduction in salt content is a process performed outside of the standard process of producing soy sauce.:
  • amakuchi (甘口) - Commonly called "Hawaiian Soy Sauce"' in the US, 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% narurally fermented product.
  • shinshiki hōshiki (新式 方式) - Contains 30-50% naturally fermented product.
  • aminosanekikongō hōshiki (アミノ酸混合 方式)- Contains 0% fermented product; is a modified vegetable extract. This is referred to as "liquid aminos" in the US.
  • 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 infers limited quantity.
  • abuakane (初茜) - Refers to industrial grade used for flavoring, powder.:
  • chōtokusen (超特選) - Used by marketers to imply the best.:

One well-known producer of Japanese soy sauce is the Kikkoman Corporation.


Soy sauce contains a small amount of naturally occurring MSG. It can also be extremely salty, so it is not a suitable condiment for some people, and should generally be taken in moderation. Low-salt soy sauces are produced, but it is impossible to make soy sauce without using some quantity of salt.

External links

  • About Soysauce (
  • Kikkoman ( - one of the world's leading producers of soy sauce. Primarily produces Japanese style soy sauce
  • San-J ( - Pictorial description of the brewing process at San-Jirushi site, another large

et:Sojakaste eo:Sojo ja:醤油 pl:Sos sojowy sl:Sojina omaka sv:Sojass zh:酱油


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