Soy sauce is a staple in many kitchens around the world, but there’s a common misconception that it contains anchovies or fish sauce, making it unsuitable for vegans.
However, this is not the case for mainstream soy sauce. In fact, soy sauce is made from soybeans, water, wheat, and salt, making it a vegan-friendly condiment.
But what about the rumors that soy sauce is made from anchovies? In this article, we’ll explore the truth behind this claim and delve into the history and differences between soy sauce and other popular condiments.
So sit back, grab your favorite soy sauce, and let’s dive in!
Is Soy Sauce Made From Anchovies?
The short answer is no, soy sauce is not made from anchovies. While some lesser-known brands of soy sauce may contain fish products, mainstream soy sauce is made solely from plant-based ingredients.
Soy sauce is made by fermenting soybeans, wheat, and salt. The fermentation process can take up to six months and results in a savory, umami flavor that is a staple in many Asian cuisines.
While soy sauce may have a strong odor that some people associate with fish or oyster sauce, this is simply due to the fermentation process and the presence of amino acids that give off a similar aroma.
It’s important to note that not all soy sauces are created equal. Some brands may add additional ingredients such as preservatives or flavor enhancers, so it’s always a good idea to check the label and do your research before purchasing.
The Origins Of Soy Sauce: A Brief History
The history of soy sauce can be traced back to ancient China, where it was known as “jan”. The sauce was made by pickling raw materials in salt to preserve them, with variations based on fruit, vegetables, seaweed, meat, and grains. The grain-based version, which used rice, wheat, and soybeans, is believed to be the precursor to modern soy sauce.
Soy sauce made its way to Japan under the name “hishio”, which was a type of fermented and salted food similar to miso paste. According to the Taiho Code, hishio made from soybeans was to be made at the hishio institute belonging to the cuisine division of the Imperial Household Agency. Over time, the making of miso paste began using the Kinzanji method brought back from China by Zen monk Kakushin in 1254.
It is said that while teaching the villagers of Kishu Yuasa how to make miso using the Kinzanji method, Kakushin noticed that the liquid that seeped out of hishio tasted really good. This became what is now known as “tamari soy sauce”.
Soy sauce in its current form was created about 2,200 years ago during the Western Han dynasty of ancient China. It has since spread throughout East and Southeast Asia where it is used in cooking and as a condiment. In Chinese cuisines, soy sauce is used both for its salty-savory flavor and for its deep red color. In Japan, Kikkoman soy sauce has become a staple of food culture and is now used in over 100 countries worldwide.
What Is Soy Sauce Made Of?
Soy sauce is primarily made from four main ingredients: soybeans, wheat, salt, and water. The process of making soy sauce involves first cooking the soybeans and wheat before adding a specific type of mold called koji. This mold helps to break down the carbohydrates in the soybeans and wheat, releasing amino acids and creating a rich, savory flavor.
After the koji has been added, the mixture is left to ferment for several months. During this time, enzymes in the mold break down the proteins in the soybeans and wheat, creating a liquid that is then pressed and filtered to remove any solids.
The resulting liquid is then mixed with salt and water to create the final product. The amount of salt added can vary depending on the desired flavor profile, but it typically makes up around 18-20% of the final product.
The Difference Between Soy Sauce And Fish Sauce
While soy sauce and fish sauce may both be used as condiments or cooking ingredients to impart umami flavor to food, they have very different flavors and ingredients.
Soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans, wheat, and salt. On the other hand, fish sauce is made from fermented salted fish or krill. Both sauces rely heavily on salt for their respective flavor profiles, but each has a distinctive set of other flavors that is accentuated by the salt.
The appearance and smell of soy sauce and fish sauce also differ greatly. Soy sauce has an intense dark brown color and is opaque, while fish sauce is a lighter shade of brown and is clear with none of the opacity of soy sauce. Fish sauce has a pungent fishy smell that some people find off-putting, while soy sauce has a more pleasant yet still distinct aroma.
Fish sauce contains animal proteins since it is made from fish, making it unsuitable for vegans. Soy sauce, on the other hand, contains no animal products. Due to its strong flavor and aroma, fish sauce is used sparingly in cooking to avoid overpowering the dish. Soy sauce can be added in larger quantities without overwhelming the dish.
Debunking The Myth: Is Soy Sauce Made From Anchovies?
One common myth about soy sauce is that it is made from anchovies. However, this is not true for mainstream soy sauce brands. While some lesser-known brands may contain fish products, the majority of soy sauce is made solely from plant-based ingredients.
Soy sauce is made by fermenting soybeans, wheat, and salt. The fermentation process can take up to six months and results in a savory, umami flavor that is a staple in many Asian cuisines. The strong odor that some people associate with fish or oyster sauce is simply due to the fermentation process and the presence of amino acids that give off a similar aroma.
It’s important to note that not all soy sauces are created equal. Some brands may add additional ingredients such as preservatives or flavor enhancers, so it’s always a good idea to check the label and do your research before purchasing. However, for the most part, soy sauce is a vegan-friendly condiment that can be used in a variety of dishes to add depth and flavor.
Types Of Soy Sauce: From Light To Dark And Everything In Between
Soy sauce is an incredibly versatile condiment that comes in a variety of styles and flavors. The different types of soy sauce can be categorized by their color, flavor profile, and the ingredients used in their production.
Japanese-style soy sauces are typically made with a 50-50 blend of soybeans and wheat. Koikuchi shoyu, or dark soy sauce, is the most common type of Japanese soy sauce. It has a deep, rich color and a strong umami flavor. Usukuchi shoyu, or light soy sauce, is saltier than dark soy sauce but has a lighter color and a milder flavor. Shiro shoyu, or white soy sauce, is made with more wheat than soybeans, resulting in a sweeter and lighter flavor profile.
Chinese-style soy sauces are generally divided into two categories: light and dark. Light soy sauce is made with the first pressing of the soybeans and has a lighter color and sweeter taste than dark soy sauce. Dark soy sauce is aged longer and has a more concentrated flavor. It’s often used in long stews or quick stir-fries to add a caramel-like sheen to dishes.
There are also other variations of soy sauce that are less common but still worth mentioning. Tamari shoyu is a type of Japanese soy sauce that is made without wheat and has a richer, deeper flavor. Saishikomi shoyu, or twice-brewed soy sauce, is made by fermenting soybeans with previously brewed soy sauce instead of salt water, resulting in a thicker consistency and more complex flavor.
Soy Sauce Alternatives For Vegans And Those With Allergies
For those who follow a vegan or gluten-free diet or have allergies to soy or fish, there are several alternatives to traditional soy sauce that can still provide the same umami flavor.
One option is coconut aminos sauce, which is made from the sap of coconut trees and contains only 90 mg of sodium per serving. It is also gluten-free and vegan, making it a great choice for those with dietary restrictions.
Another alternative is miso paste, which is made from fermented soybeans, grain, koji, and salt. While it has a milder flavor than soy sauce, it can still be used as a substitute in recipes at a 1:2 ratio (more miso to match the flavor) or by thinning the paste with liquid aminos for a 1:1 swap.
For those who prefer a more familiar flavor profile, Worcestershire sauce can be used as a 1:1 swap for soy sauce. While it typically contains anchovies and is not vegetarian or vegan, there are some brands that offer vegan options.
Tamari is another option for those with gluten sensitivities, as it is made without wheat. It has a similar flavor profile to soy sauce and can be used as a 1:1 substitute in recipes.
Fish sauce can also be used as a substitute for soy sauce in certain recipes, but it has a stronger and more pungent flavor. It is made from fermented fish or krill and should be used in smaller amounts than soy sauce.