Soy sauce adds flavor to many food recipes, without altering the real taste of the food ingredients. Mention any Chinese dish or recipe of the sort and you will definitely find soy sauce as one of the ingredients.
As far as its history concerned, it is listed as one of the oldest flavorful condiments. And, the Chinese have been using it for more than 2,500 years. Today, it is used in various cuisines of the Eastern as well as the Western countries.
Either used for cooking or directly added in cooked dishes, soy sauce is a brownish colored, earthy tasting, salty condiment. By now, you might have prepared or come across so many dishes, wherein it is added in different amounts. But, do you have any idea regarding its ingredients?
Actually, the constituents of soy sauce vary slightly from one type to another. And, depending upon the mode of preparation and ingredient, it is available in different colors, consistencies, and flavors.
► The name itself signifies that soybeans are primarily used in making this condiment. But, depending upon the method of preparation, different contents are used. For example, in some of the traditional Chinese soy sauces, fermented fish is used in addition to soybeans. And, most of the brands available in the market contain fermented wheat with little or no soy beans.
► The primary ingredients are soybeans, wheat flour, water, and salt. Flour grounded from roasted wheat is preferred due to better taste and flavor. The salt content too varies in different types. For example, dark soy sauce is thicker, darker, sweeter and contains less salt than the light one.
► Basically, there are two ways of making soy sauce, depending upon which the components vary, viz. traditional method and artificial hydrolysis. In the traditional way, the ingredients, soy beans and wheat or barley grains are fermented with the yeast, Aspergillus oryzae under natural conditions. The yeast strain can be substituted with other microorganisms that help in fermentation process.
► In case of artificial hydrolysis, hydrolyzed soy protein is used along with coloring agents for commercial production. It is much cheaper than those brewed traditionally with yeast and/or microbes. However, traditionally made soy sauce is more flavorful and beneficial as compared to the artificially produced one. In recent times, strict regulations have been imposed on the artificial production for food safety purposes.
Studies have been done on the health benefits and dangers of soy sauce consumption. The antioxidant content in some commercially available sauces is much higher than red wine and is effective in combating cardiovascular health complications. However, a risk factor is the high salt content, which can be very harmful. So, for those people who are on a low sodium diet, it is crucial to select brand that contains negligible or low salt.