The Essential Japanese Ingredient

The Essential Japanese Ingredient

The essential ingredient for Japanese food is soy sauce. Soy sauce is well known and purchased in many countries. Some people even know its Japanese name “Shoyu,” which is the most common type used for Sushi.

But how many of you know how it is made and used in Japanese cuisine besides Sushi?  Let’s dig in!  Shall we?

Different types of soy sauce

There are five types of soy sauce. These types should be appropriately used depending on what you cook or how you eat, or you are shunned. Just kidding! But seriously…

(Shiro soy sauce)

Dark soy sauce

This is the most standard soy sauce and also called "koikuchi shoyu.” This is the one you find in most foreign countries. Dark soy sauce is well balanced, so goes well with many Japanese dishes. So when in doubt, grab the Kohikicho shoyu.

Light soy sauce

This light-colored version is also called "usukuchi," and it is saltier.

This is often used in Ryotei, a Japanese traditional and high-class restaurant because it has sophisticated taste.


This is made from mostly soybeans and less wheat and fermented for a year. This is thicker and adds depth to dishes. So, it is often used to cook fish or meat. Many like this is a less glutinous option with today’s popular diets.


In opposition, Shiro is almost only made with wheat and very light in color. This is recommended to eat with Tofu, and when you don't want to add the black color of soy sauce to the dish, this Shiro soy sauce is the one you should use because presentation is essential.


This is made by adding extracted, uncooked soy sauce instead of salt and water. Hence, this has a more substantial taste. This is mostly for dipping and used for Sushi. Yum!


How is soy sauce made?

Soy sauce needs a lot of preparation and patience to be made and takes a few months or sometimes, years!

General Soy Sauce Procedure:

  1. Make rice malt

First, sauté soybeans to soften them. At the same time, roast and grind wheat.

Then mix the two in a culturing mold. Leave your mixture for three days to develop.

  1. Make Moromi

After the rice malt has rested, add water and salt.  Leave it in a dark, cool place for six months. Depending on the type, some recipes call for years!

During fermentation, enzymes from the mold gradually break down protein from the soy sauce into amino acids.  Starches turn from wheat to glucose. To support this activity, aerate the blend by mixing occasionally.  This also prevents white mold from forming.

  1. Extraction!

After the aging process is complete, the Moromi is laid out onto a cloth and pressed to extract the liquid. Take your time. This process should be done slowly to make a quality soy sauce.

After this, the liquid extracted is cooked and pasteurized. Finally, our soy sauce is done and ready to be bottled. Phew!

Now you know how soy sauce made and the different uses of each variety in Japan. You can see how soy sauce is essential to make their food unique. The Japanese culture is known for taking pride in their food preparation to create quality dishes with balanced flavor. So, choosing the right sauce is vital as each one is carefully crafted with intention.