Soy sauce (also called soya sauce) is a condiment made from a fermented paste of boiled soybeans, roasted grain, brine, and Aspergillus oryzae or Aspergillus sojae molds.  Soy sauce is a dark, rich, complex flavorful salt like condiment that is ground zero for most Asian cooking, because it is unique, is a salt carrier, a substitute but it is salt and comes from originally the other side of the world.  I’m in Tampa bay Florida  and anything since I’m living four miles from water is the other side of the world.

It’s the little bottle you see on the table at most Chinese and some other ethic restaurants.  I love it on anything and use it in much of in my cooking.  Some just sprinkle it on or over the rice dishes for extra flavor on the beef and peppers they order.  It works with anything, BUT…read on…


Chinese soy sauces are primarily made from soybeans, with relatively low amounts of other grains.  Chinese soy sauce can be roughly split into two classes: brewed or blended.

Most Chinese food take-out soy sauce (also called soya sauce) in the United States is not really soy sauce; it is not fermented, but is a combination of ingredients, depending on the manufacturer, including corn syrup, water, salt, caramel color, vegetable protein, and sodium benzoate.   In my culture, and this website,  we call this rip off  “McDonaldized”  just like all their processed products.  

The traditional method for brewing soy sauce requires multiple steps and can take a days to months to complete, depending on the recipe.

To make soy sauce, soybeans are first cooked to soften the bean. Next, bacterial and fungal cultures are added to begin the fermentation process. Roasted wheat or other grains may also be added to this mixture to provide a unique flavor.

The soybean culture mixture is combined with a salt brine and allowed to “brew” for a specific amount of time. During this process, the microorganisms break down proteins and sugars that are naturally found in the soybeans into numerous compounds that create the complex flavor and color of soy sauce.

After the fermentation process, the mixture is pressed to extract the dark brown, flavorful liquid. The resulting solids are often used as animal feed. Before the extracted liquid is packaged and sold as soy sauce, it is pasteurized to eliminate any harmful microorganisms and filtered to reduce particles and other debris.


Soy sauce originated in China sometime between the 3rd and 5th century from a meat-based fermented sauce named jiang . Its use later spread to East and Southeast Asia. Like many salty condiments, soy sauce was originally a way to salt, historically an expensive commodity.

In ancient China, fermented fish with salt was used as a condiment in which soybeans were included during the fermentation process. Eventually, this was replaced and the recipe for soy sauce, using soybeans as the principal ingredient, with fermented fish-based sauces developing separately into fish sauce.

  • Records of the Dutch East India Company list soy sauce as a commodity in 1737, when seventy-five large barrels were shipped from Dejima, Japan, to Batavia (present-day Jakarta) on the island of Java.
  •  Thirty-five barrels from that shipment were then shipped to the Netherlands.
  •  In the 18th century, diplomat and scholar Isaac Titsingh published accounts of brewing soy sauce. Although earlier descriptions of soy sauce had been disseminated in the West, his was among the earliest to focus specifically on the brewing of the Japanese version. 
  • By the mid-19th century, Japanese soy sauce gradually disappeared from the European market, and the condiment became synonymous with the Chinese product.
  •  Europeans were unable to make soy sauce because they did not understand the function of Aspergillus oryzae, the fungus used in its brewing.Soy sauce made from ingredients such as Portobello mushrooms were disseminated in European cookbooks during the late 18th century. 
  • A Swedish recipe for “Sonja" was published in 1770 and was flavored with allspice and mace.

Kikkoman is a recommended product - The color of naturally brewed Kikkoman Soy Sauce is a clear reddish-brown, and it is well-balanced in terms of flavor and aroma.  By contrast, chemically produced soy sauce usually has a cloudy, dark color; its taste is unpleasant and strong, and it's chemically produced aroma is obvious.

During the natural brewing process, soybean proteins are naturally dissolved by enzymes. Hydrochloric acid is used in chemically produced soy sauce: it does not undergo any form of the brewing process and is generally manufactured within several weeks.

As a result, the color, flavor and aroma of chemically produced soy sauce are not natural—they’re created artificially using corn syrup, salt, caramel coloring and other additives. It’s no wonder that this completely synthetic soy sauce is inferior in every way to naturally brewed Kikkoman Soy Sauce. I go with the KIKKOMAN by far, matching taste, value, availability, and authenticity.

From this vantage, soy-sauce packets appear not to be optimized for the substance they contain—a substance that, it should be noted, isn’t even technically soy sauce.  Packaged soy sauce is often a cocktail of processed ingredients that resemble the real thing: water, salt, food coloring, corn syrup, MSG, and preservatives. 

But soy sauce, strictly defined, refers to a fermented combination of soybeans and wheat whose earliest direct predecessor was first mentioned in writing in the year 1600’s and later recorded as being shipped in the 1700’s. 

Soy Sauce is a relatively fragile sauce that can easily develop fishy, off-flavors if not stored properly.   Soy sauce’s two main enemies are light and heat, so be sure to store it in a dark place away from a heat source preferably in the fridge. Once a bottle of soy sauce is opened, keep it in the fridge if you don't expect to use all of the soy sauce particularly if its in a clear glass bottle. To save money, you can purchase large metal cans of soy sauce and store them in a dark cupboard, refilling a smaller glass container in your refrigerator as needed.

Recommended in several places on the web as being the top of the hill in authenticity, quality and taste.
This soy sauce is made in Japan with the traditional fermentation process, aged in cedar wood kegs in small batches. It’s also unpasteurized meaning that all of those lovely enzymes and beneficial bacteria (like lactobacillus) are still alive.

This soy sauce was named the best tasting soy sauce by the Cooks magazine, and we think it’s the best tasting too. There are some great prices on Amazon, as well as many other places who sell it online. 
My second place choice would be a naturally fermented soy sauce, which you can find in many normal grocery stores like the brand KIKKOMAN

All to say, don’t settle for cheap manmade soy sauce. It’s really not that good a savings,  and since the better sauce is more intense and you need less, it balances out.

  • Contains: OG whole soybeans, water, OG whole wheat, sea salt, and aspergillus oryzae (koji).
  • Organically grown with whole soybeans, mountain spring water, organic whole wheat and sea salt.
  • Ohsawa® Nama® Shoyu is the only soy sauce that's fresh and alive!
  • It is unpasteurized, enzyme- and lactobacillus-rich, and aged four years in cedar kegs.
  • It is truly the “Champagne of Soy Sauces”. 
  • Kosher Certified

WARNING - Now heres a slight problem, this sauce is expensive,  it might be found in a gourmet store, definitely on Amazon which is a better idea since several complained about one distributor.  A huge percentage of the buyers said they received it leaking, possible due to it being fermented and not sealed correctly.   If you see it on your grocers shelf, or at a ethic grocery store or section, check the bottle, it might be wise to spend the extra pennies to make sure the bottle is OK.