The pandemic continues to impede the Dumpling Hunter mission and outings to restaurants have been few and far between. I have just started travelling to work conferences and after each of them there have been emails and phone calls from contract tracing teams following up on conference COVID infections. Check this website from Columbia University for weekly projections of how the pandemic will evolve in each county in the USA.
Thus, we remain mostly bunkered down at home and mainly venturing out for grocery shopping and, during COVID lulls, mission critical in-person work meetings. Needing to restock on soy sauce to make dumpling sauces, we recently hit our local H-Mart and their entire aisle dedicated to soy sauces. We were dismayed though to see that a lot of the standard soy sauces had tons of chemicals listed in their ingredients. This led us on a quest to mail order some high-end Japanese soy sauces, made from just water, soy, wheat, salt and time. We then gathered a panel to do a soy sauce tasting. To put things in perspective we started with some super-market Kikkoman soy sauce, which was unanimously described as tasting of chemicals (but we do love their bizarre animated commercials – google it).
Kajita Shoten – was first up for tasting, a soy sauce that had been aged for three years and had a cool dragon logo. The panel of tasters all agreed the flavor was smooth and rounded with lots of umami. Several panelists noted a Marmite-esque front-end and mushroom like back-end as the flavor evolved in the mouth. Kajita Shoten is a Saishikomi (doubled-brewed) soy sauce which is produced from brewing equal amounts of soybeans and wheat with regular soy sauce (Koikuchi) instead of water and salt.
This was rated as the best all purpose soy sauce
Shiso Marudai – the first of two SHISO varieties, this had as stronger, saltier front end than the Kajita. The taste started with a fermented tofu flavor and then progressed with rolling waves of flavor, described as bright, grassy and slightly vinegar. Shiso Marudai is made with higher quality whole soy beans which contain more oils which influence the way the fermentation process evolves.
Rated as best dumpling dipping sauce.
Shiso Koikuchi – This sauce is aged for two years and is mellower than the Marudai and has coffee and chocolate undertones and hints of Marmite. The flavor does not evolve with a different front and back end, but rather spreads out over the mouth. The two year aging process is longer than used in commercial sauces, typically 6 months, and in comparison produces higher levels of glutamic acids which generates the umami flavor.
Yamasan Kanro Shoyu – this is another double brewed soy sauce that has been aged for 1,000 days. The sauce was thick, concentrated and salty and hit hard up-front and then smoothed out. The taste was one consistent note across the mouth. Described as being like an “old school Korean soy sauce”.
This is a good every-day soy sauce.
Yamaroku Tsuru Bishio – this sauce has been aged for four years in a traditional wooden tub used for fermenting foods. It is a thicker, complex sauce with bright grassy flavors that move around the tongue and evolves. Best summed up by a panelist as “The sauce is a ballet in my mouth”.
Of the five, this sauce would be best for Sushi.
After tasting this sauce, we realized the Shiso Marudai was like a young Tsuru Bishio.