Photo of traditional soy sauce brewing from Kenyu Trading
It is difficult to imagine Japanese food without soy sauce. The small containers with the black, fermented liquid are on every table. The best stuff is aged in cedar wood kegs and made in small batches with organically grown soy beans. It should be unpasteurized to not kill the tasty enzymes and beneficial bacteria (like lactobacillus).
If you have bought soy sauce in the past without checking the list of ingredients, do go and take a look right now. Many cheap types contain all kinds of additives and preservatives that should not be needed and certainly do nothing to improve a bad quality soy sauce. With a high quality soy sauce, you really just need a drop to get that fantastic flavour!
Image from The Epoch Times and Kikkoman
If you are trying to avoid genetically modified foods, you already know that selecting organically certified products is the way to go: GMOs are not allowed. Several companies are now making efforts to provide the best soy sauce: Kikkoman's organic soy sauce is certified organic by QAI and the USDA and is made in the traditional way with premium quality GMO-free whole organic soybeans, GMO-free wheat and salt.
Ohsawa also makes a terrific organic soy sauce that is popular among the macrobiotic crowd. Ohsawa's soy beans are organically grown, and they use "mountain spring water, organic whole weat and sea salt" allowing the sauce age for four years in cedar kegs. That's taking your soy sauce seriously! Look for the Ohsawa "Nama Shoyu" brand which means "raw soy sauce" in Japanese.
Kenyu Trading has specialized in soy sauce with organically certified beans from China and North America. They use the IP handling system:
The harvested soybeans from contracted farms are collected, delivered, selected and loaded into containers. Then the containers are handed to the appointed authorized organic warehouse of Kenyu Trading Co., Ltd. Furthermore, we are also obligated to include the certifications of seed, producer, overseas exporter, the certification of container transportation, and the manual of distribution channel. The organic raw material of Kenyu Trading Co., Ltd was certified by JAS and NOP in 2003. We make the effort to supply organic raw material which is considered healthy, safe and environmental friendly.
If you want to avoid gluten, try tamari instead. The difference between tamari and soy sauce is that tamari does not contain any wheat. Both tamari and soy sauce may contain Aspergillus Oryzae, a microorganism used in Chinese and Japanese cuisine which ferments soybeans to produce soy sauce, miso, and sake. Try Ohsawa's Tamari - it's organic.
When I see the large variety of soy sauces in my local supermarket, I'm both bewildered and delighted. Being able to read kanji characters is a must: if I want a soy sauce that contains a 100% naturally fermented product, I select the HonjÅzÅ hÅshiki variety, while the Shinshiki hÅshiki contains only 30-50% naturally fermented product. Oh well. Then there are the TokkyÅ« (Special quality, not pasteurized) and Tokusen (Premium quality, usually implies limited quantity) grades, and several others for the locally produced, more rare stuff that is seldom available in supermarkets. Regional differences are also common, for example in Osaka, where people like a less dark soy sauce with their sashimi. It contains more wheat than soy, hence the lighter colour.
Soy sauce doesn't have much isoflavines left after the brewing, so guys who worry about the size of their willie can continue to enjoy soy sauce with their meals.
Written by Martin Frid at greenz.jp