Updated: January 12, 2018
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Japanese Soy Sauce Types And How To Use Them

This article presents the 5 types of Japanese soy sauce and what dishes you can make with them.

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Shoyu (醤油): Japanese Soy Sauce

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Soy sauce has a history of about 3,000 years. It originates from China but the "shoyu" soy sauce is the one native to Japan. It's slightly different than it's Chinese counterpart. For instance, the Japanese shoyu is made in part from wheat, whereas the Chinese one has none ususally. On a side note, this means that most Japanese soy sauces are not gluten-free, so you should be carefull when traveling to Japan if you have gluten intolerance or allergies.

How It's Made

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Shoyu has just a few main ingredients: soybeans, wheat, salt, and water. There is also an important fermenting agent called kojikin (bacteria, こうじ菌). There are 5 types of shoyu recognized by the Japanese Agricultural Standard that we will present below. The percentage of raw ingredients used, how they are prepared and the production process varies depending on the type of shoyu. Generally speaking, the beans and wheat are pulverized into a powder, water is added for the brewing and the koji is added for fermentation. It can take up to six months for the fermentation to be completed.
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Next, we'll talk about the 5 types of Japanese soy sauce.

Koikuchi Shoyu (濃口醤油)

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Koikuchi shoyu is the most popular, all-purpose soy sauce. It accounts for about 80% of all shoyu consumed. You might know the Kikkoman brand which is popular worldwide. Koikuchi means that is thick or dark. It has the strongest flavor and can be used for all kinds of recipes such as for making teriyaki sauces or adding some savory flavor to hot pots. Below is a link on how to make an authentic teriyaki sauce.

Awaguchi Shoyu (淡口醤油)

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The Awaguchi shoyu is lighter in color and has less of a strong taste, although the salt content is still quite high. It's a type of shoyu that you can add to your food as a simple sauce. It goes particularly well with soft tofu or stewed foods. Because the color is not so dark, it will not make the dish turn black.

Try this stewed pumpkin recipe with this soy sauce and you won't be disappointed!
It's a type of shoyu that is used for shoyu ramen for instance. If you are in Japan, make sure to try out this kind of delicious ramen!

Saishi Shikomi Shoyu (再仕込み醤油)

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Saishikomi shoyu is the darkest one. To make it, twice as much of the raw ingredients are used and the fermentation period is also twice as long as the all-purpose koikuchi shoyu. This one is particularly good for sashimi. It has the most umami of all shoyu. If you'd like to know more about sashimi, check out the link below.

Tamari Shoyu (溜醤油)

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Tamari Shoyu is a type of soy sauce that is made from a higher percentage of soybeans and less water during the fermentation process. The result is a shoyu that is very fragrant and has a lot of umami. This one can be used as a sauce for natto (fermented soybeans), it is also good for teriyaki and is very nice for sashimi of fish with red flesh such as tuna.

Shiro Shoyu (白醤油)

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Shiro shoyu is the "white soy sauce" if you translate it the meaning directly, but it has more of an amber color. This one has a higher wheat content and a lighter flavor. This is the best soy sauce to make "tamagoyaki" a kind of Japanese sweet omelet.
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It is also used for making takikomigohan, which is a rice dish in which this soy sauce and other ingredients are added.


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There is more than meets the eye to soy sauce! If you are into Japanese cooking, it's very interesting to experiment with different types. Hope you found this article useful.
Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.

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