Soy sauce

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Soy sauce


A bottle of dark soy sauce
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese: 1. 醬油
2. 荳油
3. 豉油
Simplified Chinese: 1. 酱油
2. 豆油
3. 豉油
Japanese name
Kanji: 醤油 or 正油
Hiragana: しょうゆ
Korean name
Hangul: 간장
Vietnamese name
Quoc Ngu: [ xì dầu, nước tương or tương ] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help)

Soy sauce (US) or soya sauce (Commonwealth) is a fermented sauce made from soybeans (soya beans), roasted grain, water and salt. The sauce, originating in Korea, is commonly used in East and Southeast Asian cuisine and appears in some Western cuisine dishes, especially as an ingredient in Worcestershire sauce.

Basic production overview

Soy sauce is made from soybeans.

Authentic soy sauces are mixed with yeast or kōji (, the mold Aspergillus oryzae or A. sojae) and other related microorganisms. Authentic soy sauces are made from whole soybeans, but many cheaper brands are made from hydrolysed soy protein instead. These soy sauces do not have the natural color of authentic soy sauces and are typically colored with caramel coloring.

In addition, traditionally soy sauces were fermented under natural conditions, such as in giant urns and under the sun, which was believed to contribute to additional flavours. Nowadays most of the commercially-produced counterparts are fermented under machine-controlled environments instead.

Soy sauce should always be kept refrigerated and out of direct light. An opened bottle of soy sauce that has been left unrefrigerated could become slightly bitter.

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. What some westerners can only describe as a flavorful, kind of sweet taste is a distinct basic taste called umami by the Japanese and "xiān wèi" (, 鮮味 lit. "fresh taste") by the Chinese. Umami was first identified as a basic taste in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda of the Tokyo Imperial University. The free glutamates which naturally occur in soy sauce are what give it this taste quality.

Small quantities of Soy Sauce may be included in take-away meals such as Korean Kimbap and Mandu boxes. These portions are often attractively and creatively packaged.

Making soy sauce at home

Just like other processed soy products such as duengjang, soy milk, tofu and others, soy sauce can be made at home. The traditional method requires mixing a yeast and grains with soybeans or Koji (Aspergillus oryzae) with the soybeans.


Soy sauce originated in ancient Korea and has since been integrated into the traditional cuisines of many East Asian and South East Asian cultures. Soy sauce is widely used as a particularly important flavoring in Korea, Japanese, Filipino, and Chinese cuisine. However, it is important to note that despite its rather similar appearance, soy sauces produced in different cultures and regions are very different in taste, consistency, fragrance and saltiness. As such, it may not be appropriate to substitute soy sauces of one culture or region for another.

Chinese soy sauce

File:Soy sauce.jpg
A bottle of Chinese soy sauce

Chinese soy sauce (jiàngyóu/chǐyóu, 酱油/豉油) is primarily made from soybeans, with relatively low amounts of other grains. There are two main varieties:

  • Light/fresh soy sauce ("Shēngchōu"; ): A thin (as in non-viscous) opaque dark brown soy sauce. It is the main soy sauce used for seasoning, since it is saltier, but it also adds flavour. Since it is lighter in color, it does not greatly affect the color of the dish. The light soy sauce made from the first pressing of the soybeans is called Tóuchōu (头抽 or 頭抽), which can be loosely translated as first soy sauce or referred to as premium light soy sauce. Touchōu is often sold at a premium because of better taste (similar to extra virgin olive oil). In addition, the classification Shuānghuáng (雙璜) refers to the double fermentation process employed, to further add complexity to the flavour. These latter two more delicate types are usually for dipping.
  • Dark/old soy sauce ("Lǎochōu"; ) : A darker and slightly thicker soy sauce that is aged longer and contains added molasses to give it its distinctive appearance. This variety is mainly used during cooking since its flavour develops under heating. It has a richer, slightly sweeter, and less salty flavour than light soy sauce. Dark soy sauce is partly used to add color and flavour to a dish.

In traditional Chinese cooking, one of the two types, or a mixture of both, is employed to achieve a particular flavour and colour for the dish.

Other types:

  • Thick soy sauce ("Jiàngyóugāo", 醬油膏 or 蔭油膏): Dark soy sauce that has been thickened with starch and sugar. It is also occasionally flavored with MSG. This sauce is not usually used directly in cooking but more often as a dipping sauce or poured on food as a flavorful addition.
  • Dark soy paste (huángjiàng 黄酱): Although not really a soy sauce, it is another salty soy product. It is one of the main ingredients in a dish called zhajiang mian (, lit. "fried paste noodles").

In Singapore and Malaysia, soy sauce in general is dòuyóu (豆油); dark soy sauce is called jiàngyóu (醬油) and light soy sauce is jiàngqīng (醬清). Angmoh tauyew (紅貌豆油), lit. "foreigners' soy sauce" is the Hokkien name for Worcestershire sauce.

Hawaiian soy sauce

A unique type of soy sauce produced by Aloha Shoyu Company since 1946 is a special blend of soybeans, wheat, and salt, historically common among local Hawaii residents. Hawaii residents rarely use the term "soy sauce," opting to use the term "shoyu" instead.

Indonesian soy sauce

File:Kecap Manis ABC Indonesian Soysauce sweet.jpg
Kecap manis Indonesian thick and sweet soy sauce is nearly as thick as molasses.

In Indonesia, soy sauce is known as kecap (a catchall term for fermented sauces), from which according to one theory the English word "ketchup" is derived. Two main varieties 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 recipes.
Kecap manis 
Sweet soy sauce, which has a thick, almost syrupy consistency and a pronounced sweet, treacle-like flavor due to generous addition of palm sugar. It is a unique variety; in a pinch, it may be replaced by molasses with a little vegetable stock stirred in.

Kecap inggris ("English fermented sauce"), or saus inggris ("English sauce") is the Indonesian name for Worcestershire sauce. Kecap Ikan is Indonesian fish sauce.

Malaysian soy sauce

Malaysia, which has cultural links with Indonesia, uses the word 'kicap' for soy sauce. Kicap is traditionally of two types: kicap lemak and kicap cair. Kicap lemak is similar to kecap manis but with very much less sugar while kicap cair is the Malaysian equivalent of kecap asin. However the Indonesian style kecap manis has now its Malaysian equivalents due to the increasing number of Malay producers in what used to be a Chinese dominated industry. Kicap is an important condiment in Malay and Malaysian Chinese cuisine. Kicap has also entered the Malaysian Indian cuisine. A popular dish is the Indian Muslim 'daging masak hitam' which is basically beef or mutton stewed in a sweet spicy kicap-based sauce. Some people add some kicap to their rice and curry to spice up the meal. Many Malaysian children's favourite dish is rice with kicap and fried eggs.

Japanese soy sauce

File:Organic Tamari.JPG
Koyo organic tamari sauce

Japanese soy sauce, or shō-yu (しょうゆ, or , ), is traditionally divided into 5 main categories, depending on differences in their ingredients and method of production. Japanese soy sauces include wheat as a primary ingredient, and this tends to give them a slightly sweeter taste than their Chinese counterparts; they also have a somewhat alcoholic, sherry-like flavor. Japanese and Chinese soy sauces are not really interchangeable in recipes; Chinese dark soy sauce comes closer to the Japanese one in overall flavor, but not in the intensity of the flavor or the texture.

Koikuchi (
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 produced from roughly equal quantities of soybean and wheat. This variety is also called Kijōyu () or namashōyu (生しょうゆ) when it is not pasteurized.
Usukuchi (
Particularly 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, that is used in its production.
Tamari (たまり) 
Produced mainly in the Chūbu region of Japan, tamari is darker in appearance and richer in flavour than koikuchi. It contains little or no wheat; wheat-free tamari is popular among people eating a wheat free diet. 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 (, lit. "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. 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 shoyu (甘露 醤油) or "sweet shoyu".
File:Kikkoman litre bottles.jpg
Shoyu (Koikuchi) and light colored shoyu (Usukuchi) as sold in Japan by Kikkoman, 1 litre bottles.

Newer varieties of Japanese soy sauce include:

Genen (
Low-salt soy sauces also exist, but are not considered to be a separate variety of soy sauce, since the reduction in salt content is a process performed outside of the standard manufacture of soy sauce.
Amakuchi (
Called "Hawaiian Soy Sauce" in those few parts of the US familiar with it, this 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% naturally 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 and Canada.
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 implies limited quantity.

Other terms unrelated to the three official levels of quality:

Hatsuakane (初茜) 
Refers to industrial grade used for flavoring, powder.
Chōtokusen (超特選) 
Used by marketers to imply the best.

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

Taiwanese soy sauce

In Taiwan, only light soy sauce is used and this is referred to as jiangyou (醬油); the terms shengchou (生抽) and laochou (老抽) are not used. In addition to soy sauce made from soybeans and wheat, there is a variety that is made from black beans. Soy sauce made from black beans is generally more expensive because it takes longer to make, but it is claimed to have higher nutrition value and aromatic flavour. The history of soy sauce making in Taiwan can be traced back to southeastern China, in the provinces of Fujian and Guangdong. The cultural and political separation between Taiwan and China since the end of the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, when China ceded Taiwan to Japan, had brought yet another unexpected evolution of soy sauce making in Taiwan. In addition, Taiwan is the only place where black bean soy sauce has been commercialized in large-scale, and exported to countries like Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, USA, Canada, Germany, and the UK.

Korean soy sauce

Korean soy sauce, or Joseon ganjang (조선간장) is a byproduct of the production of doenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste). Joseon ganjang, thin and dark brown in color, is made entirely of soy and brine, and has a saltiness that varies according to the producer. Wide scale use of Joseon ganjang has been somewhat superseded by cheaper factory-made Japanese style soy sauce, called waeganjang (hangul: 왜간장/倭간장). However, the Koreans strongly held onto their native culture and resisted the Japanese attempts to suppress the rich Korean culture, during the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula, and the use of Joseon ganjang is an example of this.

Vietnamese soy sauce

Vietnamese soy sauce is called xì dầu, nước tương, or sometimes simply tương.

Filipino soy sauce

A popular condiment in the Philippines, it is called toyo, and is usually found beside other sauces such as patis and suka.



A study by National University of Singapore shows that Chinese dark soy sauce contains 10 times the antioxidants of red wine.[1]


Soy sauce does not contain the beneficial isoflavones associated with other soy products such as tofu or edamame.[citation needed] It can also be very salty, so it may not be a suitable condiment for people on a low salt diet. Low-salt soy sauces are produced, but it is impossible to make soy sauce without using some quantity of salt.

In 2001 the UK Food Standards Agency found in tests of various soy sauces (those made from hydrolysed soy protein, rather than being naturally fermented) that some 22% of samples contained a chemical called 3-MCPD (3-monochloropropane-1,3-diol) at levels considerably higher than those deemed safe by the European Union. About two-thirds of these samples also contained a second chemical called 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. [2]


External links

de:Sojasauce et:Sojakaste eo:Sojo fa:سس سویا ko:간장 it:Salsa di soia he:רוטב סויה lt:Sojų padažas nl:Sojasaus no:Soyasaus simple:Soy sauce sl:Sojina omaka fi:Soijakastike sv:Sojasås