Tuesday, 24 November 2009

not apple, but soy

Without fail, “soy sauce” (shoyu) is a desert island item for Japanese. Miniature bottles of soy are our standby in travelling abroad. Amazing.

There are always 20 to 30 varieties of soy lined on supermarket shelves in Japan. Most are from the giants while some are locally produced, matured in taste like Italian aged balsamic vinegar. If..if you’re a soy virgin and confused which to choose, try Kikkoman’s “Premium Soy”, which is my family’s regular. That gives not only a proper quality, but friendly price for daily use.

I felt so proud to find Nigella Lawson on TV sprinkling her Kikkoman over her simmering middle-eastern lamb stew to give depth of flavour in place of salt. My action was nearly to call them to sponsor the international domestic goddess... Soy could have taken its throne in the seasoning kingdom!!

As well as Chinese counterparts, Japanese soy is very briefly categorised as two groups; “dark-coloured” (koi-kuchi) and “light-coloured” (usu-kuchi). The first soy is referred to as what is called “soy cause” used for both cooking in the kitchen and seasoning dishes as you like at the table. We, on the other hand, use the second soy to add saltiness without colouring a lot “in cooking”.

Japanese also has “tamari” soy originated in Central Japan, with more robust flavour suitable for sushi and sashimi, but for long, I haven’t seen anyone interested in tamari in Tokyo. Although sweeter version of soy is totally a stranger to me, it seems standard in Southern Japan. Well, family members of soy are countless.

Do you know “murasaki” literally meaning “purple” is the sushi terminology for soy? If you ask at a sushi restaurant in Japan, “please pass me murasaki”, your server will treat you as a gastronomic traveller, I promise...probably 80%.

Soy is rich in vitamin B, amino acid, mineral, etc. One teaspoonful of soy a day keeps the doctor away?? Maybe, we don’t need an apple.

PS. I personally think Kikkoman’s export soy doesn’t work well as it once required far more quantity than expected in my cooking. So, try to get the domestically-circulated bottle in a Japanese or Asian grocery. Final tip!

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