Written and illustrated by Misa Ono
A while ago, my father brought expensive beef steak back home as a prize from a golf tournament. I said to my mother, “we should cook this with only salt and pepper!” However, I could barely have half of it because it became too fatty for my stomach. But I have found a way to finish the rest of the steak: A bit of soy sauce! Soy reduces any greasiness and makes steak taste sweeter! Soy sauce is not something new and is something on the dining table all the time for the Japanese. I first thought that we didn’t have to put any sauce over the expensive steak; however, this time I realized how great soy sauce is with the steak!
Soy sauce is salty. It also has a great balance of sweetness, sourness, bitterness and umami that makes the flavor richer and well matches almost any kind of dish. It may be hard to believe, but it is even tasty if you pour a little bit of soy sauce over vanilla ice cream!
Little fish, shellfish, or kombu which is cooked with dark soy sauce and sugar are called tsukudani. Since it is salty and sweet, it used to be an important preserved food at the time before refrigerators. Also as it has very strong flavor and harmonizes with the umami, sweetness, and saltiness of all the ingredients. It makes a good combination with rice or sake. Sashimi (raw sliced fish) pairs well with a dipping soy sauce, too. Soy reduces the fishy smell of sashimi and brings out the sweetness and umami of fish. And it is great with sake too! You can also marinade the leftover sashimi in soy sauce inside the fridge over a night. Try soy marinade sashimi on the top of warm rice. The heat of rice cooks sashimi a bit and it makes it taste even better! There are various ways to enjoy sashimi like this.
Lastly, we cannot forget about yakitori that Japanese men (and I) love that is cooked with soy sauce! They (and I) love to go out for drinks after work! One of the things that go well with sake is yakitori. You stick any kind of meat and vegetables on a skewer and dip them into soy based sauce and grill them over charcoal. The smell and flavor of a bit burned soy sauce is so good. You cannot stop drinking beer!
One of the seasonings that is used most in Japanese foods is soy sauce. It may taste the same for people who are not used to it. However, it is an all-purpose seasoning that you can enjoy by changing the amount depending on the food, or even burning a bit. A bit of soy for sushi or sashimi, large amount for nimono or tsukudani and a little bit for salad dressing and ice cream!