Soy Sauce Like You've Never Seen It (or Tasted It)

May 31, 2017

Today in "Condiments to Incorporate into Your Everday Cooking": our Shop's special shoyu. These aren't your run-of-the-mill shoyu, we've got them tinged with cherry blossom, aged in whiskey barrels, and even infused with mushrooms.

And for the umami funk-lovers among us, get your hands on our high-quality fish sauce (from the same purveryor of the shoyu) and black garlic, too.

If you're new to these ingredients (and even if you're not), we've got lots of creamy, crispy, crunchy ways to use them ahead.

Shoyu? What's that?

Even though the name may be unfamiliar, shoyu is not one of those sauces you'll buy for one recipe's sake, then push to the back of your pantry and never see again.

Shoyu is simply soy sauce—Japanese soy sauce, to be exact. They tend to have a sweeter, smoother taste than Chinese soy sauces, which typically have more of a bite and sharpness to them, but you can use them in similar ways.

Our Shop just stocked up on some incredible tasting, high-quality shoyu, and they go way beyond what's available on your grocery store shelf. Here's the line-up:

  • Cherry Blossom Shoyu: A shoyu that’s been aged with preserved cherry blossoms. The shoyu is brewed with preserved cherry blossoms, which are cured in a salt brine, then vinegar, and finally, carefully dried out at a very low heat. The resulting cherry blossoms' concentrated floral notes make this shoyu ideal for drizzling over vegetables or as a dipping sauce. This lighter-hued shoyu has a more subtle flavor, won't overpower other ingredients, and it won't darken the color of the foods it is added to.
  • Matsutake Shoyu: A light shoyu that's been brewed with matsutake mushrooms, which are prized in Japanese cuisine. The mushrooms are known for their strong aroma, and described as spicy, sweet, and clean.
  • Smoked shoyu: Cold-smoked with Japanese oak for a deeper, complex flavor. It's a great companion to have while you fire up that grill all summer long—we're talking marinades for shrimp, chicken, and steak.
  • Black Garlic Shoyu: A major power player with caramel-y notes. More on black garlic below, but this shoyu will bring a funky, sweet side to noodles or soups.
  • Whiskey-aged Shoyu: This nectar has been aged for 13 months in Japanese whiskey barrels (and the Japanese know their whiskey). Try not to drink it straight.

Clockwise from top left: Cherry Blossom Shoyu, Matusake Shoyu, Black Garlic Shoyu, Whiskey Barrel Aged Shoyu

let's cook with shoyu!

Perk up bland tofu with a shake of shoyu (try the whiskey-aged shoyu for something even kickier).

These rich, creamy noodles benefit from a sinus-clearing, salty soy sauce. Which shoyu will it be?

Cherry blossom shoyu is the perfect opportunity to add a sweet, floral note to a traditional dressing.

Make your roast-y chicken smoky, too, with smoked shoyu.

More earthy notes for this beet-ed up salad? A healthy shower of matusake shoyu.

OK, let's talk about fish sauce.

Fish sauce has a similar, thin consistency to shoyu, and can be splashed into noodle dishes, stir-frys, and any soup. Don't let the intense smell intimidate you: Once blended with other big flavors, like ginger and garlic, its taste softens (and nearly replaces any need for added salt).

This one is made from large, fatty sardines from the Sea of Japan, and combined only with salt and sugar, using methods that date back to the Edo period (the early 1600s to late 1800s). Once mixed, the resulting liquid is aged two years, and then aged for another 12 months in Japanese whiskey barrels. This gives the sauce a more nuanced, less “fishy” flavor, with a hint of sweetness. The resulting mash is rigorously strained to yield the thin, amber liquid.

let's cook with fish sauce!

Fry bits of tofu in fish sauce, lime, and sugar and it acts as the acidic devil's advocate to this creamy, coconutty corn soup.

Fish sauce is a perfect add-in at the end of a simmering soup (similar to the way red wine vinegar makes a great final hit on lentils).

A natural player in a salad dressing, here fish sauce is partner to lime juice, lemongrass, and cilantro.

And finally, that moody looking bulb? Meet black garlic.

Black garlic is actually regular garlic, dressed up in a dark, sweet cape. The magic happens when cloves are aged in a humid, cool environment. That spicy bite that you've come to associate with raw garlic fades away, the sugars in the cloves break down, and what's left behind is an umami-packed flavor, very unlike where it started. You'll have to taste it to understand it, and luckily our Shop is all stocked up for you!

let's cook with black garlic!

Up the garlic factor by replacing a little bit of the miso and chili pastes with a chunk of the black, funky stuff.

Hummus gets a recharge with black garlic—which makes for a striking hue, too.

Change out the chimichurri for black garlic mixed with mayo—you won't regret it.

A clove or two of black garlic in the simmering olive oil never hurt anybody.

the more you know (about shoyu & fish sauce)

Are fish sauce, shoyu, and black garlic old hat for you? What are you making these days?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Olivia Bloom

Written by: Olivia Bloom

Has a soft spot for string cheese.