Soy sauce is a staple condiment in many households and is used in a variety of dishes, from stir-fries to marinades. But for those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, there may be some confusion about whether soy sauce contains any animal products, particularly fish.
While some types of sauces do contain fish or shellfish, soy sauce is not one of them. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between soy sauce and fish sauce, examine the ingredients in soy sauce, and answer the question once and for all: does soy sauce have fish in it?
Does Soy Sauce Have Fish In It?
The answer is no, soy sauce does not have fish in it. Despite its slightly briny smell, soy sauce is made from four simple ingredients: soybeans, salt, wheat, and water. It is a plant-based condiment that is suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
Fish sauce, on the other hand, is made from fermented fish and has a pungent fishy smell. It is not suitable for vegans as it contains animal products. While both soy sauce and fish sauce are heavily reliant on salt for their respective flavor profiles, each has a distinctive set of other flavors that is accentuated by the salt.
It’s important to note that while some soy sauces may contain fish products in the ingredients, these are easy to spot on the label. The difficulties arise in sorting out brewing methods and if anything involved in the process contains fish products. Lactic acid bacteria are commonly used in fermentation, but typically lactic acid is derived from plants such as beets. However, it is possible that it is also derived from animal products.
Using Kikkoman soy sauce ingredients label as a reference, everything looks clear. The ingredients are water, wheat, soybeans, salt, and sodium benzoate (less than 1/10 of 1% as a preservative). While some may worry about the use of sodium benzoate, it is a common food preservative that has been deemed safe by the FDA.
The Difference Between Soy Sauce And Fish Sauce
While both soy sauce and fish sauce are savory and salty liquids used for seasoning purposes, they have very distinct flavors and different uses in the kitchen. The biggest thing that sets soy sauce and fish sauce apart is their base ingredients. Soy sauce is made using fermented soybeans, while fish sauce is made using fermented fish.
Another difference between the two sauces has to do with animal proteins. Soy sauce contains no animal products, making it a suitable condiment for vegans and vegetarians. Fish sauce, on the other hand, is not suitable for vegans as it contains animal products.
In terms of appearance and smell, soy sauce has a more pleasant yet still distinct aroma that is difficult to describe. It’s kind of like roasted wheat mixed with miso. Soy sauce is also much darker than fish sauce, with an intense dark brown color that is opaque. Fish sauce, on the other hand, has a translucent brown color similar to the color of apple juice and a pungent fishy smell that some people find off-putting.
When it comes to cooking, soy sauce is commonly used in Chinese and Japanese cuisine as a universal seasoning, while fish sauce is a crucial ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking. While both sauces can be substituted for each other for seasoning purposes, it’s important to note that they have different flavor profiles and may not always be interchangeable in certain dishes.
Ingredients In Soy Sauce
As mentioned above, soy sauce is made from four simple ingredients: soybeans, wheat, salt, and water. The soybeans and wheat are first cooked and then mixed with a culture of Aspergillus fungi. This mixture is then left to ferment for several days to several months, depending on the desired flavor and color. The mixture is then pressed to extract the liquid, which is the soy sauce we know and love.
Soybeans are a great source of protein and contain all nine essential amino acids that our bodies need. Wheat is used to add a slightly sweet flavor to the soy sauce. Salt is added for taste and as a preservative. Water is added to dilute the mixture to the desired consistency.
It’s important to note that not all soy sauces are created equal. There are many different types of soy sauce, each with their own unique flavor and color. Some soy sauces are darker and richer in flavor, while others are lighter and sweeter. Some are even aged for several years to develop a deeper flavor.
Common Misconceptions About Soy Sauce And Fish
There is a common misconception that soy sauce contains fish, but this is simply not true. Fish sauce, made from fermented fish, is a separate condiment altogether. While it is true that fermented fish was used in the past to create a condiment along with soybeans during the Zhou dynasty, this is no longer the case for mainstream soy sauce products.
Another misconception is that all soy sauces are vegan. While in theory soy sauce is vegan as it is made up of plant-based ingredients, some manufacturers add ingredients that compromise its vegan status. Some flavor enhancers used in soy sauce production may be derived from fish or meat. Therefore, it is important to check the label and research the company’s production methods to ensure that the product is truly vegan.
Lastly, there is a misconception that soy sauce and fish sauce can be used interchangeably in recipes. While both are the result of fermentation, they have distinct flavors and should not be substituted for each other without altering the overall taste of the dish. Soy sauce has a more pleasant yet still distinct aroma that cannot easily be described, while fish sauce has a very fishy aroma that some people find off-putting. It’s important to use the correct condiment for the recipe to achieve the desired flavor profile.
Is Soy Sauce Suitable For Vegans And Vegetarians?
Yes, soy sauce is suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Soy sauce is made from plant-based ingredients such as soybeans, wheat, salt, and water. These ingredients are all vegan-friendly, and there are no animal products used in the production of soy sauce. However, it’s important to note that some manufacturers may add flavor enhancers that are derived from fish or meat, which would make the soy sauce non-vegan. Therefore, it’s essential to read the label carefully and check with the brand if you’re unsure about the ingredients. Additionally, it’s worth noting that some brands may not be vegan-friendly, even if their products are made with vegan ingredients. It’s always a good idea to research the brand’s ethical practices before purchasing their products. Overall, as long as you choose a soy sauce that is free from animal products and is made by a vegan-friendly brand, it’s safe for vegans and vegetarians to consume.
Other Alternatives To Soy Sauce
If you’re looking for alternatives to soy sauce, there are plenty of options available. One popular option is fish sauce, which is a staple in Southeast Asian cuisine. It is made from fermented fish and salt, and has a rich umami flavor that can be used as a substitute for soy sauce. However, it’s important to note that fish sauce has a strong fishy smell and taste, so it may not be suitable for everyone.
Another option is Bragg Liquid Aminos, which is a soy sauce alternative that is popular among health food enthusiasts. It is made from soybeans and water, and contains amino acids that are essential for good health. However, it does contain soy, so it may not be suitable for those with soy allergies.
Coconut aminos is another alternative to soy sauce that is gaining popularity. It is made from the sap of coconut trees and has a sweet, slightly salty flavor that is similar to soy sauce. It’s also gluten-free and low in sodium, making it a great option for those with dietary restrictions.
Tamari is another soy sauce alternative that is similar in flavor to traditional soy sauce but is gluten-free. It is made from fermented soybeans and has a rich umami flavor that can be used in a variety of dishes.