Types Of Japanese Soy Sauces: A Guide To Japanese Soy Sauces

by Erika Shinomoto
best Japanese Soy Sauces

Embark on a culinary journey through the diverse world of types of Japanese soy sauces, discovering their unique flavors and culinary applications.

Delve into the rich tapestry of Japanese soy sauces, each with its distinct character and culinary role. From the robust koikuchi to the versatile usukuchi, explore the nuances of these liquid treasures that enhance Japanese cuisine.

Key Takeaways

  • Japanese soy sauce, or shoyu, is a fermented condiment made from soybeans, wheat, salt, and water.
  • The main types of Japanese soy sauce include koikuchi, usukuchi, tamari, and shiro, which differ in taste, color, and usage.
  • Koikuchi is the most commonly used type of soy sauce in Japan, while usukuchi is often used in dishes where the color of the food needs to be preserved, tamari has a thicker consistency and a milder taste, and shiro soy sauce has a sweeter taste than other types of soy sauce.

Types of Japanese Soy Sauces

There are several types of soy sauces used in Japanese cuisine. Each type has its own unique flavor, color, and aroma. Here are the main types of Japanese soy sauces:

Shoyu

Shoyu is the most common type of soy sauce used in Japanese cuisine. It is made from a mixture of soybeans, wheat, salt, and koji (a type of mold). Shoyu has a rich, salty flavor and a dark color. It is often used as a dipping sauce for sushi, sashimi, and other dishes.

Tamari

Tamari is a type of soy sauce that is made with little or no wheat. It is thicker and darker than shoyu, with a stronger, richer flavor. Tamari is often used as a dipping sauce for sushi, sashimi, and other dishes, as well as a marinade for meat and vegetables.

Usukuchi

Usukuchi is a light-colored soy sauce that is made with more wheat than shoyu. It has a lighter flavor and is saltier than shoyu. Usukuchi is often used in soups, stews, and other dishes where a lighter flavor is desired.

Saishikomi

Saishikomi is a type of soy sauce that is made by double fermenting the soybeans and wheat. It has a thicker, darker, and richer flavor than shoyu. Saishikomi is often used in marinades, sauces, and other dishes where a strong flavor is desired.

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Shiro

Shiro is a type of soy sauce that is made with white soybeans and wheat. It has a light color and a mild, sweet flavor. Shiro is often used in dishes where a light color is desired, such as in clear soups and broths.

Overall, there are many different types of Japanese soy sauces, each with its own unique flavor and purpose. Whether you are looking for a light, salty flavor or a rich, intense flavor, there is a soy sauce that will suit your needs.

Production Process of Japanese Soy Sauces

Japanese soy sauce, or shoyu, is a versatile condiment that has been an essential part of Japanese cuisine for centuries. The production process of Japanese soy sauce involves several steps, including fermentation, brewing, and pressing.

Fermentation

The first step in the production process of Japanese soy sauce is the preparation of koji mold, which is used to ferment the soybeans and wheat. Koji mold is a type of fungus that converts the starches in the soybeans and wheat into simple sugars, which are then used by the yeast and bacteria to produce alcohol and lactic acid during the fermentation process.

Brewing

After the koji mold is prepared, it is mixed with steamed soybeans and roasted wheat, along with salt and water, to form a mash. The mash is then left to ferment for several months, during which time the yeast and bacteria convert the sugars in the mash into alcohol and lactic acid. This process gives the soy sauce its characteristic flavor and aroma.

Pressing

Once the fermentation process is complete, the mash is pressed to extract the liquid soy sauce. Traditionally, this was done by placing the mash in a cloth bag and pressing it by hand, but modern methods involve the use of mechanical presses. The liquid soy sauce is then pasteurized to stop the fermentation process and bottled for sale.

Japanese soy sauce can be divided into two main categories: naturally brewed soy sauce and chemically produced soy sauce. Naturally brewed soy sauce is made using the traditional brewing method described above, while chemically produced soy sauce is made using hydrolyzed vegetable protein and other additives.

Overall, the production process of Japanese soy sauce is a complex and time-consuming process that requires a great deal of skill and expertise. By using high-quality ingredients such as soybeans, wheat, and salt, and following traditional brewing methods, Japanese soy sauce producers are able to create a condiment that is rich in flavor and aroma and adds depth and complexity to a wide range of dishes.

Usage of Japanese Soy Sauces in Cooking

Japanese soy sauce, or shoyu, is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of ways in cooking. Here are some common ways to use Japanese soy sauce in different types of dishes.

Dipping Sauces

Japanese soy sauce is often used as a dipping sauce for sushi, sashimi, and other types of seafood. To make a simple dipping sauce, combine soy sauce with a small amount of rice vinegar, mirin, or sake. You can also add grated ginger or wasabi for extra flavor.

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Marinades

Japanese soy sauce can be used as a marinade for meat, fish, and vegetables. To make a simple marinade, combine soy sauce with sake, mirin, or sugar to balance out the salty flavor. You can also add garlic, ginger, or other seasonings to enhance the flavor.

Seasoning

Japanese soy sauce is a common seasoning for a variety of dishes, including nitsuke (simmered dishes), soups, and broths. It adds a rich umami flavor to dishes and can be used in place of salt to enhance the flavor profile.

Dressings

Japanese soy sauce can also be used as a dressing for salads and other dishes. To make a simple dressing, combine soy sauce with rice vinegar, mirin, or sesame oil. You can also add honey or sugar for a sweet and savory flavor.

Overall, Japanese soy sauce is a versatile condiment that can be used to add salty, umami flavor to a variety of dishes. Some popular brands of Japanese soy sauce include Kikkoman Hon Tsuyu and Kamada Dashi Soy Sauce.

Japanese Soy Sauce Vs Chinese Soy Sauce

The difference between Japanese and Chinese soy sauces is that most Japanese soy sauce ingredientsare are a combination of wheat and soybean – usually in equal parts. Whereas, Chinese soy sauces are made with soy only. Taste wise, Japanese soy sauces and Chinese soy sauces are very different because of the preparation process. Japanese soy sauces are sweeter and have more complex flavors whereas Chinese soy sauces are much saltier and have a strong flavor. 

Japanese Soy Sauce vs Korean Soy Sauce

When compared to Japanese soy sauces, Korean soy sauces are much saltier but still lighter in color than Japanese soy sauces. And Korean soy sauces are mostly used while cooking but Japanese soy sauce on the other hand are also used as dipping sauce. 

How to Choose the Right Japanese Soy Sauce?

There are certain things you should keep in mind when choosing Japanese soy sauce –

  • Buy soy sauce that is naturally brewed. You will easily be able to find ‘’brewed’’ written on the bottle. You may want to steer clear of chemically brewed soy sauces. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you for this. 
  • If you only want to buy one type of soy sauce, you may want to get the best koikuchi. It is an all-purpose soy sauce that is considered the standard for cooking purposes.
  • Try to get soy sauces that contain no additives. You will get the best and the most natural flavor from soy sauces that are all-natural.
  • Once you open your bottle of soy sauce, make sure to keep it in the fridge. Doing this keeps your sauce fresher for a longer period of time.
  • If you are not going to be using soy sauce a lot, it is always a good idea to get a smaller bottle.

Storage tips for Japanese Soy Sauce

It’s extremely important store soy sauce in the right away in order to maintain its flavor, aroma, and richness.

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Make sure to store your soy sauce away from direct light and heat. Store it in a cool, dark area. Avoid keeping your soy sauce on the kitchen counter top. It’s recommended to store soy sauce in the refrigerator, once opened. This is especially important if you’re going to use the soy sauce for over a month or two. Store soy sauce in a dark cabinet.

Types Of Japanese Soy Sauces: FAQs

What is Japanese soy sauce?

Soy sauce was brought to Japan by Buddhist monks, somewhere around the 7th century. It first originated in China. When it reached Japan, the Japanese made improvements by the end of the 13th century. In addition to soybean, the Japanese started adding wheat in equal parts. The fermentation process and time also increased. Since then, the fermentation process of soy sauce has not changed much.

What are the different types of Japanese soy sauce?

There are several types of Japanese soy sauce, including koikuchi, usukuchi, tamari, and shiro. Koikuchi is the most commonly used type of soy sauce in Japan and has a rich and balanced flavor. Usukuchi, on the other hand, has a lighter color and higher salt content, making it ideal when you don’t want to darken the color of a dish. Tamari is primarily made from soybeans and has a robust umami flavor. Shiro, also known as white soy sauce, is made from mostly wheat and has a sweeter and milder taste than other types of soy sauce.

What is the difference between shoyu and tamari?

Shoyu and tamari are both types of Japanese soy sauce, but they differ in their ingredients and taste. Shoyu is made from a mixture of soybeans, wheat, and salt, while tamari is primarily made from soybeans. Tamari also has a richer and stronger flavor than shoyu.

What is the most popular brand of soy sauce in Japan?

Kikkoman is the most popular brand of soy sauce in Japan and is known for its high-quality and consistent flavor.

What’s the difference between tamari and soy sauce?

Tamari is a type of soy sauce that is primarily made from soybeans, while soy sauce is made from a mixture of soybeans, wheat, and salt. Tamari also has a richer and stronger flavor than soy sauce.

Which is the best soy sauce for cooking?

The best soy sauce for cooking depends on the dish you are making. Koikuchi is the most commonly used type of soy sauce in Japan and is suitable for most dishes. Usukuchi is ideal when you don’t want to darken the color of a dish, while tamari is best for dishes that require a stronger umami flavor.

What are the best Japanese soy sauce brands?

Some of the best Japanese soy sauce brands include Kikkoman, Yamasa, and Higashimaru. These brands are known for their high-quality and consistent flavor.

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