Written and illustrated by Misa Ono
When I was a student, my bento (lunch box) was mostly packed with brown side dishes (because they were cooked with soy sauce) except white rice. Furthermore, the sauce of the side dishes seeped into the rice, and the rice became brown too. It often happens at common households; however, cooks who have high aesthetic sense would say, “only brown side dishes are not good looking and not acceptable!” Therefore, “usukuchi-shoyu” was produced. Though usukuchi-shoyu is saltier and has less flavor than koikuchi-shoyu, you don’t lose the original natural color and flavor of ingredients. This type of soy sauce is often used in the western side of Japan.
There is also “shiro-shoyu” which has a much lighter color than usukuchi-shoyu. This soy is usually used as “shiro-dashi” by adding dashi stock. With the saltiness and umami of dashi, this is very useful for seasoning meat and vegetable nimono, chawanmushi (steamed egg custard dish with vegetables, mushrooms, fish, chicken, etc.), etc.
You can make “mentsuyu” by adding dashi stock and sweetener to koikuchi-shoyu. It is used in broth for udon or soba noodle dishes, tempura, nimono, etc. It is similar to shiro-dashi, but mentsuyu is more commonly used at home. Since it is very useful and easy to use, we cannot help but to use it for a lot of dishes; however, they come to taste same. This is a common Japanese mothers’ failure!
“Tamari-shoyu” and “saishikomi-shoyu” were also produced, which are darker color and flavor than koikuchi-shoyu. Tamari-shoyu is a made by drawing off the liquid content of miso, which is very thick and rich. Saishikomi-shoyu is produced by adding usukuchi-shoyu to raw soy sauce instead of salt water. Saishikomi also has rich flavor. Both of them are good with sushi and sashimi.
Like I mentioned, there are various kinds of soy sauce, and it is still evolving. There is even a sauce that tastes like soy but is safe for people who are allergic to soy, wheat, and powdered soy sauce. There are also various kinds of containers for soy such as a spray pump. You can spray sauce evenly to the food; however, it can be spread everywhere. There is also a new form of soy called “shoyu gelée” which comes from the soft jelly of mentsuyu and crumbling it. This helps to make the dish look stylish and it is a great tool for Japanese mothers to make something new for the everyday meal!