Soy sauce

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 May, 2010, 12:00am

King of sauces

Every kitchen in Hong Kong has at least one bottle of it. According to the Food Channel, more people have soy sauce in the kitchen around the world than coffee. This would be hard to prove. But soy sauce is definitely one of the most popular flavourings for food.

It all started in China. The English name for it, though, comes from Japanese. The Japanese call soy sauce shoyu. It is how 'soy beans' got its English name, too. Nobody is really sure when the Chinese first started making it. But most experts agree that by 3rd century BC, it had become popular.

Light and dark

Anyone who knows anything about Chinese food knows there is more than one kind of soy sauce. If you are doing a quick stir fry, you need a light soy sauce. If you want to cook some pork, you will need a dark soy sauce. But the list does not end there - there are oyster sauces, shrimp sauces, chilli sauces ...

But all of them rely on one little thing that for many centuries was a mystery to everyone outside China. It is called by its Japanese name, koji. Koji is a kind of fungus. It is used to ferment soy beans. The taste the fungus creates with soy beans touches our 'fifth taste'. That is the savoury taste the Japanese call umami.

A Japanese empire

Although it was invented in China, today a Japanese company is the world's No 1 soy sauce maker.

During the 1600s, the Japanese city of Edo (now called Tokyo) became one of the biggest cities in the world. Two families in the nearby town of Noda began making soy sauce and taking it to the big city by boat. Other soy sauce makers began to join them. They formed a Noda soy sauce association.

The Noda association would eventually become Kikkoman. Today, Kikkoman is the world's most famous soy sauce maker. It opened its first shop in the United States in the 1950s. In 1972, it opened its first soy sauce factory in the US. Today, the US produces more soy beans than anywhere else in the world.

now do this

1 Most soy sauces are made from ...

a. fish

b. oysters

c. beans

2 Umami is the Japanese word for ...

a. a kind of fungus

b. a kind of taste

c. a kind of sauce

3 The world's biggest producer of soy beans is ...

a. the United States

b. China

c. Japan


May 5

1. b, 2. a, 3. c