Soy Sauce. It’s the buzz. nothing is complete without a dash of soy. We all love salt. And soy – yes there is that salty taste – but there is more. Soy Sauce – you complete me. On my rice, on my noodles, my chicken, pork, prawns, beef, fish, lamb, with my vegetables, in my soup!
So where does Soy Sauce come from and is it good for you? To answer this important question first – yes, it is good for you.
In a study by the National University of Singapore it was shown that Chinese dark soy sauce contains 10 times the anti-oxidants found in Red Wine, and it can help prevent cardiovascular diseases. It is rich in Lactic Acid bacteria and has excellent anti-allergenic potential.
Soy Sauce originated in China, between the 3rd and 5th centuries A.D. It was a derivative from a meat based fermented sauce called ‘jiang’. As it became more popular its use spread to East and South East Asia. Salt has historically been an expensive commodity and this was a way to ‘stretch the salt’. Originally the sauce used fish with salt and soya beans, but this recipe was replaced and a sauce was created using soya beans only.
The first recorded European interaction with Soy Sauce was in 1737, when seventy five large barrels were shipped to Batavia (Jakarta) on the island of Java, from Dejima in Japan. Thirty five of those barrels were to be shipped to and arrive in Holland (the Netherlands). By the 19th century this flirtation with Japanese Soy was usurped by the common usage of Chinese Soy in Europe.
Samuel Wells Williams, a ‘sinologist’, described the process thus in the 19th century, “The best soy sauce is made by boiling beans soft, adding equal quantities of barley or wheat, and leaving the mass to ferment. A portion of salt and three times as much water are added afterwards, left for two to three months when the liquid is then pressed and strained.” What he did not know was the magic ingredient – ‘Aspergillus Oryzae’ – the fungus used in brewing true Soy Sauce. Traditionally Soy Sauce takes months to prepare.
Many nations prepare their own varieties of Soy Sauce. From traditional Chinese, Japanese and Korean varieties you can also find Hawaiian, Filipino and Burmese. Not to mention the variations from each of these. Japan for example has at least 12 very different popular blends.
China offers brewed varieties such as pinyin, jyutping, Cantonese Yale; blended varieties creating sweet or umami (savoury) tastes – these include Mushroom Soy, thick soy sauces and shrimp soy sauces.
There are Indonesian Soys, Malaysian and Singaporean Soys, Taiwanese Soys, Thai Soys, and Vietnamese Soys.
At Tang: The Asian Food Emporium we stock a wide variety of Soy Sauces from many different places. Check here to identify in our shop where you can find these delicious sauces or ask for guidance and recommendations when you attend our store at 151 Russell St in Melbourne’s CBD.
But remember – it’s not ready to eat until you add the soy, so pass it over here please!