What is soy sauce?

Soy sauce which is also popularly known as soya sauce, is a common condiment used widely in South and Southeast Asian cuisine. The sauce probably originated in China. Today, it is also widely used in western foods and in many prepared foods. The sauce is dark colored liquid and has a distinct salty taste.

The history of the sauce

Soy sauce is produced by fermentation of soy beans. The earliest history of the sauce is found in China between third and fifth century BC during which time this sauce was first prepared. Salt has always been an expensive commodity. In China, the soy beans were fermented and used with salt to cure fish which was then consumed as a condiment. Gradually, the fermented soy beans developed into soy sauce while the fermented fish developed into fish sauce.

During the colonial times, records are obtained which showed that soy sauce was exported from China and Japan. By the middle of nineteenth century, all soy sauce was being made in China. Europeans could not master the art of making soy sauce as they failed to comprehend the role of the fungi in the creation of the sauce.

Nutritional facts about soy sauce

According to the USDA, the nutritional facts of soy sauce are given as follows:

100 ml of soy sauce contains:

  • Calories : 60
  • Fat: 0.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 5.57 g
  • Fibers: 0.8 g
  • Protein: 10.51 g
  • Sodium: 6 g

Most soy sauce contains a high quantity of salt which constitutes 14 to 18 percent of the sauce. Certain low salt varieties have become available in the market, but it is not possible to completely eliminate salt from soy sauce.

Types of soy sauce

Depending on the type of raw material used and stage and process of fermentation, a number of different types of soy sauce can be identified. Some of them are as follows:

Chinese soy sauce is made from soybeans and has little amount of other grains. It can be of two types:

  • Brewed – This type is formed directly by fermentation without adding anything else.
  • Light or fresh soy sauce is thin and opaque and widely used as seasoning.
  • Yaam Yau is made mostly in Taiwan and is created by mixing steamed soybeans with coarse rock salt which is then dry fermented for long period of time. It is used for dipping or for red cooking.
  • Blended – Sweet or other types of tastes are added.
  • Mushroom dark soy – where broth of mushroom is added into the sauce and then exposed to the sun
  • Thick soy sauce – when the sauce is thickened by addition of starch and sugar and MSG is sometimes added to flavor.
  • Shrimp soy sauce – where fresh soy sauce is simmered with fresh shrimp, spices and a special type of distilled liquor.

Japanese soy sauce – The sauce was brought to Japan from China by Buddhist monks. Wheat is the main ingredient. So, they are sweeter. There are five types:

  • Koikuchi contains equal amount of soybeans and wheat and is the most common type.
  • Usukuchi is lighter and sweeter as fermented rice is added to it.
  • Tamari – Darker and richer, it contains almost no wheat and is closest to the Chinese variety.
  • Shiro – It uses mostly wheat and little soy bean and has a sweeter and lighter taste.
  • Saishikomi – It is twice brewed and darker and richer.

Indonesian soy sauce includes different fermented sauces. There are three types:

  • Salty soy sauce is similar to Chinese but thicker and stronger.
  • Sweet soy sauce has treacle like flavor as palm sugar is added to it.
  • Medium sweet soy sauce has less sweetness than the sweet soy sauce and is a little more salty.

Apart from these, different flavors and varieties of soy sauce are found in Burma, Korea, Philippines, Hawaii, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Health benefits of soy sauce

According to several studies, soy sauce has a number of health benefits. Some of them are:

  • In a study conducted by Elam in 2000, it was found that soy sauce increases the level of HDL and lowers triglycerides thereby leading to better health of the heart.
  • Soy sauce is rich in anti oxidants.
  • It also contains manganese which helps in clotting of blood and formation of connective tissues.
  • Soy sauce contains high amount of an amino acid called tryptophan. This material is used in production of serotonin which helps you to fight depression.

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