What is Chinese food without soy sauce? It is often impossible to imagine not adding soy sauce when eating tofu, dumplings, etc.
I know you love that salty, maybe sweet taste, I know I do.
Therefore the natural question is; is soy sauce vegan? The answer is “yes”, or at least the majority of types and brands brands . This article will walk you through everything there is to know about soy sauce in relation to veganism, including the different types of soy sauce, the ingredients, and the process of making it.
What Is Soy Sauce?
Before we begin, it is essential for you to understand what soy sauce is. To start with, this mysterious brown liquid was an ancient Chinese condiment that came into existence over 2200 years ago.
It was initially made from fermented soybeans. It is the perfect salty seasoning for most meals.
According to Altern Ther Haealth Med, “Consuming moderate amounts of traditionally prepared and minimally processed soy foods may offer modest health benefits while minimizing potential for adverse health effects.”
Types of Soy Sauce
You also need to understand that there are different types of soy sauce. While this is great because it gives you a vast range of options, it can also be confusing.
You have three choices when it comes to color; light, dark and regular. And the types include tamari, usukuchi, and koikuchi.
The Light, Regular And Dark Soy Sauce
The light color soy sauce has a mellow flavor. The dark soy sauce is a bit more mature and has a more profound smell and taste. Because this darker version also contains hints of caramel, it adds hints of sweetness to meals. The regular soy sauce is a mixture of both the light and dark version.
Tamari, koikuchi, and usukuchi
These Japanese varieties are entirely different from the Chinese versions of soy sauce. The tamari is one that closely resembles the Chinese type of soy sauce. The main difference between them is that they are made of zero wheat, which makes it popular among certain people.
While there is no evidence to support that wheat is not good for you. Some people believe that it can help with weight loss, as it is said to lower gluten levels thus improving fat loss. However, I am not of the opinion that wheat should be avoided.
Usukuchi is the light soy sauce version that has a deep punch as far as taste is concerned. It is savory and intense thus adding great flavor to your meals. However, consider using it sparingly when seasoning vegetables. It contains other ingredients like the Japanese sweet wine.
Koikuchi is the most common type of Japanese soy sauce. It is used in about 80 percent of the homes. It is great because it can be used in all foods and even as a dipping sauce.
Of course, soy sauce needs to have a decent amount of soybeans. The proteins therein give out the flavors that you enjoy so much.
The only soy sauce that does not contain this ingredient is the tamari soy sauce. Wheat is a great addition because it hastens the fermentation process and gives it a distinctive smell. It also makes it sweeter.
Salt and Water
These are often combined in brine during the fermentation process. They act as preservatives and salts that help balance the bacteria as the products ferment.
Bacterial And Fungal Cultures
These are not necessarily ingredients, but they are commonly added in the soy sauce making process. The most common filamentous uses are Aspergillus oryzae which are also called koji.
A Little History
The production has not changed much from the way it was over 2200 year ago. In the past, they brewed soy sauce using their hands over a period of months.
The soy sauce underwent numerous steps that would ensure richness in flavor. However, technology today has reduced the time it takes to complete the entire process.
First the soybeans are soaked in water then boiled, and the wheat is roasted. Both are crushed and mixed in equal quantities. The koji is added to this grain mix, and brewing begins.
The brine is then added to this mixture to begin the fermentation process. Here the proteins are broken down and the sauce beings to acquire its main characteristics, color, and taste.
Today, they have found ways to push through this process as fast as possible to make sure there is enough soy sauce in the market. Some producers will leave the mixture to brew for a couple of years.
Once the proteins are broken down, there is an important process that separates the solids from the liquid, and the end product is collected.
Pasteurization is critical because it removes the yeast and molds from the sauce. Therefore the liquid is heated before its filtered one last time.
Sometimes, before packaging, manufacturers may choose to age their soy sauce which makes it even better.
If you are all about making things at home, the national geographic has a complete video on how the traditional soy sauce was made.
Now, Is Soy Sauce Vegan?
With the information presented above, it is safe to say that soy sauce is indeed vegan. There are a couple of misconceptions that we should go over.
While the Zhou dynasty did ferment fish, and used it in addition to soybeans, that is not the case with most soy sauce products.
There is also the story of the company Kikkoman, which was found to test their soy sauce on animals. Unfortunately, it is difficult to know the ethical practices of all companies that produce soy sauce.
Most say sauce producing companies are frank enough to list all their ingredients on the bottle labels. Therefore, if you want to know for sure if a soy sauce bottle you are planning to buy is vegan, take the extra 10 seconds to check the label.
What are your favorite recipe which calls out for soy sauce? Do you have a favorite type or brand of soy sauce? Let me know on the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article in your favorite social media platform!