Shoyu, or soy sauce, is an essential seasoning in Japanese cuisine that has found a place on tables around the world together with popular Japanese dishes, ranging from sushi and tempura to teppanyaki.
But even with the growing eclecticism of contemporary cooking, which has encouraged creative chefs from San Francisco to Stockholm to experiment with Japanese ingredients such as wasabi (Japanese horseradish) and yuzu (Japanese citron), it is still rare to find shoyu or shoyu-based seasonings in western-style meals.
Toshihiko Okazaki aims to change that with Beauty Soy Sauce, a range of fruit-flavored soy sauce he developed with the aim of broadening the use of a traditional condiment that has largely been restricted to Japanese cooking.
Okazaki came up with the idea to develop a soy sauce that would complement western-style dishes while he was still working in the apparel business and traveling to Europe frequently.
During his travels, he began to think that soy sauce would be a good candidate to export to Europe from Japan. He was concerned, though, that exporting simple, traditional Japanese soy sauce would not work and came up with the idea of blending the dark, salty condiment with fruit juices.
“Soy sauce is usually associated with Japanese food, but I thought it would be interesting to develop a soy sauce that could be used in western cuisine and would also go well with wine,” he says.
However, it wasn’t easy for Okazaki to turn his idea into reality.
He found a soy sauce manufacturer in western Japan who was willing to give the idea a go, but getting the right combination proved more difficult than Okazaki had initially expected.
“They would send me batches of 10 different samples at a time. What was particularly difficult was figuring out what kind of dashi (bonito-based broth) worked best and getting the amount of sugar and salt right,” Okazaki says.
Three years and 2,000 samples later, in 2012, they finally hit on the combination they were looking for.
Like many Japanese, I have always associated soy sauce with Japanese food (with the exception of other Asian soy sauces, which are often different – sweeter, thicker or more piquant — from Japanese soy sauce.)
So, I was somewhat skeptical about the idea of fruit-flavored soy sauce until I actually tried two of the recipes that Soy & Co provides on their website.
The first dish I made was a simple salad of thinly shredded hakusai (Chinese cabbage) with kaiware daikon (radish sprouts) and sliced almonds seasoned with a dressing of cassis – or blackcurrent — flavored soy sauce and olive oil.
The combination of cassis and soy sauce gave the salad both a zing and a tangy touch of fruitiness that made a striking contrast from any other kind of salad dressing I had tasted.
As soy sauce is quite a powerful seasoning, I initially wondered whether even fruit-flavored soy sauce would make the salad too salty. I was surprised to find that that was not the case at all.
Beauty Soy Sauce uses usukuchi (light-colored) soy sauce, which is saltier than the more commonly used koikuchi (dark-colored) soy sauce. But it works well as a salad dressing because it has only 8.5 % salt per 100ml, so is less salty than regular (koikuchi) soy sauce, which has 18% salt per 100ml.
The second dish I made was a carpaccio of sea bream, diced apples and fresh spearmint leaves seasoned with pear soy sauce and olive oil.
The pear soy sauce accentuated the fruitiness of the diced apples and turned this carpaccio into a pleasingly light, flavorful dish, a perfect appetizer, perhaps, to accompany a favorite bottle of champagne.
Mineko Matsuda, our resident photographer, improvised on a different salad recipe provided by Soy & Co. The original recipe calls for raw udo (the stem of Japanese spikenard or “mountain asparagus”) and sections of iyokan orange. But instead of the udo, Mineko used nagaimo (a kind of yam), added slices of cucumber and apple, garnished the salad with dill and dressed it with olive oil and pear soy sauce.
“This salad needed only a touch of olive oil and the pear soy sauce complemented the iyokan orange beautifully, in the same way that balsamic vinegar adds spice to appetizers and salads,” says Matsuda.
For a salad of strawberries, cucumbers, avocado, baby leaves, dill and macadamia nuts, Matsuda used passion fruit soy sauce, which she found sufficiently flavorful on its own. “It was really not necessary to add olive oil at all, so when adding olive oil only a few drops should suffice. The dressing blended so well with every ingredient, giving the salad a hidden fruitiness and sweetness that made it a gentle starter to the meal,” she says.
Soy & Co makes 10 types of fruit-flavored soy sauce – banana, blueberry, cassis, cherry, grape, passion fruit, peach, pear, pomegranate and raspberry. Prices range from Y566 for a 100ml bottle of banana soy sauce to Y864 for the blueberry-flavored soy sauce.
The shop’s website helpfully provides several easy-to-make recipes, while a promotional leaflet offers suggestions, such as the intriguing idea of mixing one of the fruit soy sauces with a hint of honey and pouring it on vanilla ice cream. I have yet to try that one.
Soy & Co.
Main shop : 3-3-9 Takaban, Meguro-ku,
Open : Mon-Fri - 11:00~20:00
Sat, Sun, National Holidays – 11:00~19:00
Phone : 03-5708-5642
URL : http://soyandco.com/
Also available at National Azabu Supermarket