As a truly versatile seasoning, shoyu can be used in almost any dish from any cuisine: Japanese, of course, but also Chinese, Asian, and European savory dishes. It can even be used with sweets and desserts. Traditional shoyu is made with just four simple ingredients: whole soybeans, wheat, sea salt, and water. Three things distinguish Mitoku’s shoyu from mass produced, commercialized soy sauce: the use of wholesome soybeans, the lack of artificial preservatives, and the method of production, explained here.
Looking first at ingredients, in general, two types of soybean are used in the production of soy sauce: defatted soybeans or whole soybeans. The defatted beans are cheaper than whole beans and have been formed into flakes, which speeds up the processes of disintegration and dissolution. This means that soy sauce can be produced quickly and at comparatively low cost; as a result, more than 80% of the soy sauce in Japan is produced with these lower quality soybeans.
By contrast, Mitoku’s shoyu has always been made with whole soybeans only, following traditional production methods. Shoyu made from whole soybeans has a deep, mellow flavor, thanks to the presence of glycerol, derived from the whole beans.
Secondly, Mitoku’s shoyu contains none of the artificial preservatives found in cheaper, commercialized soy sauces. These can include alcohol, used to inhibit the growth of film yeasts, as well as sweeteners for added sweetness and amino acids for enhanced umami. Instead, our traditional producers take advantage of the preservative qualities of alcohol which occurs naturally through wheat fermentation.
Thirdly, the taste of traditionally manufactured shoyu is shaped by the care, effort, and individuality of its producers. The koji (cooked soybeans inoculated with Aspergillus oryzae, a fermentation culture) is central to the processes of fermentation and maturation, but it takes a producer with both experience and determination to monitor and control the impact of the koji in order to ensure each batch of shoyu is superior in taste and quality.
Organic Kanazawa Shoyu
Available in bulk only
Organic Adachi Shoyu
Available in bottle and bulk
Since shoyu is a fermented soy food, like miso, it shares many of miso’s medicinal and nutritional properties while avoiding the problems associated with unfermented soy foods. (See Miso Health Benefits.) Scientists have given particular attention to the high concentration of “brown pigment” in shoyu, because of its strong anti-oxidant and anti-cancer properties. Shoyu is said to aid in the digestion of grains and vegetables while being rich in several minerals. Shoyu is an excellent substitute for salt in all types of cooking.
Mitoku’s shoyu is made with just four simple ingredients – whole soy beans, whole wheat, salt, and water – which are transformed into a delicious seasoning with an appetizing aroma and deep, rich color. The protein content of whole soybeans, the main ingredient, imparts shoyu with its rich umami, while whole wheat gives the seasoning sweetness and its distinctive fragrance. Salt works to protect shoyu from bacteria and also influences the fermentation process, and pure, fresh water is critical for good taste.
Traditionally produced shoyu is the result of a series of carefully-controlled processes, namely preparation, koji-making, fermentation, maturation, pressing, heating, filtering, and bottling. Some of the key processes are outlined below.
This stage is perhaps the most critical in the shoyu production process, as it will shape the taste and quality of the entire batch: you cannot make good shoyu without good koji.
First, whole soy beans are soaked in water then steamed; producers must rely on their years of experience to determine the optimal volume of water and length of steam. Once steamed, the soy beans are mixed with roasted wheat, inoculated with the spores of a culture called Aspergillus oryzae, and left in a special room for a few days to allow the culture to propagate. The temperature and humidity of the room is monitored and controlled to ensure that the resulting koji is optimal for its task, which is to start the fermentation process. Knowing when the koji is ready is the role of the experienced shoyu producer.
Fermentation and Maturation
The next stage is to add both koji and salted water into large wooden tanks. The salt halts the propagation of the koji, and instead the enzymes generated by the koji get to work on breaking down the whole soybeans and whole wheat. The fermentation environment is rich with microorganisms, including lactic acid bacteria and yeast, and each plays its role in promoting fermentation. With the ingredients now broken down, the shoyu is left to mature, allowing it to slowly take on the rich flavor, deep color, and complex aroma of Mitoku’s shoyu.
Since it is living microorganisms which drive this stage of production, each batch of shoyu can differ slightly from those before and after it. To ensure consistency in quality, however, is something that can be achieved through producer expertise. It is the responsibility of the producer to decide when the mixture should be stirred, a process which supports the work of the microorganisms, by keeping a watchful eye on both the mixture itself and any seasonal and temperature changes. The length of the fermentation and maturation process will differ depending on each producer. This stage is followed by pressing, heating, filtering, and finally bottling, before shipment.
In any type of cooking style, traditional shoyu, such as that offered by Mitoku, can enhance and deepen flavors.
Shoyu works to enhance flavors regardless of cooking stages, be it in preparation, during cooking, or at serving. Shoyu can be used with any type of cuisine, bringing an appetizing aroma, depth of flavor, and color to almost any dish. This is down to shoyu’s unique balance of the five basic tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami), which is the result of the fermentation process by which it is made.
In general, when using shoyu to season foods, it should be added only during the last few minutes of cooking. Brief cooking mellows its flavor and enables it to blend with and heighten rather than dominate other flavors in the dish. Adding a little shoyu to simmered dishes, for example, results in great depth of flavor. In longer cooking, shoyu’s complex, delicate taste and slightly alcoholic aroma is lost. When using shoyu to season soups or sauces, add just a little sea salt early in the cooking to deepen and blend the flavors of the ingredients, then add shoyu to taste shortly before serving.
Shoyu is also used to improve dishes when they are lacking in intensity of flavor. For example, adding a splash of shoyu even to an ready-made curry, tomato sauce, or soup will take the dish to another level. The aroma of shoyu is made up of around a few hundreds of different aroma components, allowing it to impart complexity. This is particularly the case for stir-fried, grilled, and barbequed dishes. Shoyu becomes even more aromatic when warmed, giving off a distinctively delicious smell. It’s important that shoyu is only added at the very end, to avoid burning off this aroma.
Another property of shoyu is its ability to mask odors from other ingredients. This odor-neutralizing quality is the reason why shoyu is used as a dipping sauce for sashimi.
What’s more, shoyu is an excellent flavor enhancer, great for marinating, pickling, and sautéing.