History of Soy Sauce, Shoyu, and Tamari - Page 8

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and
Soyfoods, 1100 B.C. to the 1980s

©Copyright 2004 Soyfoods Center, Lafayette, Californi

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1940-1959. In 1942 Wing Nien made the first known Chinese fermented soy sauce in the US on Montgomery and Jackson streets in San Francisco. And by 1947 soy sauce manufacturers in the US included Showa Shoyu Co. (Glendale, AZ), Great China Foods Co. (Chicago, IL), A.E. Staley Mfg. Co. (Decatur, IL), Oriental Show-You Co. (Columbia City, IN), and La Choy Food Products (Archbold, OH).

Before World War II American soy sauce manufacturers were probably producing less than 1 million gallons (3,785 kl) per year. Chinese restaurants were using an estimated additional 2 million gallons per year, which was imported from China; it sold competitively with the US product despite import tariff charges (Minor 1945). By 1955 it was thought that US sauce production exceeded East Asian imports, which were estimated to be 305,500 gallons (1,156 kl) per year ( Soybean Digest 1955). The reason for the large disparity between the 1940 and the 1955 figures is not clear, but is probably based on lack of good production and import statistics.

Detailed discussions of protein hydrolysates, including their relevance to soy sauce manufacture were given by Hall (1946) and Prendergast (1974). They described the three basic hydrolysis methods (enzymatic, acid, or alkaline) and the advantages or disadvantages of each. Acid hydrolysis is usually preferred for its low cost and good flavor, although it destroys the amino acid trytophan. Acid gives more complete hydrolysis then enzymes. In each case, the flavor of the final hydrolysate is greatly dependent on the starting raw material (soybeans, wheat, etc.).

Soy Sauce Research and Publications (1900-1959) . Starting in the early 1900s, Japanese researchers began to publish a number of articles on shoyu in English language scientific journals. Details of these were given above under "History of Shoyu in Japan." In 1905 the first two such articles appeared. Kintaro Oshima, Director of the Hokkaido Agricultural Experiment Station in Sapporo, Japan, wrote the first English-language article by a Japanese and the first article by anyone to use the term "soy sauce." Published in the USDA Office of Experiment Stations Bulletin , it discussed the shoyu production method, chemical/nutritional composition, and Japanese national production figures. (Was Oshima then living in America??) Thereafter most of the English-language articles were published in Japanese journals. Saito (1905) gave the most detailed description to date of the shoyu production process and its microbiology. T. Mitsuda (1909) reported on the yeasts of shoyu mash and on the carbohydrates of shoyu, Takahashi (1909) studied the varieties of Aspergillus oryzae , and Takahashi and Yamamoto (1913) reported that there were remarkable physiological differences between the various Aspergillus oryzae molds used to make the koji for sake, shoyu, and tamari. Yukawa (1915) reported on the fate of tyrosine in shoyu moromi mash. Takahashi and Sano (1922) investigated the budding yeasts in shoyu moromi mash.

During this same period, Japanese researchers were granted a number of US patents for improved methods of shoyu manufacture (Minor 1945). Processes closely related to the traditional Japanese process were patented by Okazaki (1909), Jinbo and Hoshizaki (1911 Ref??), Satow (1920; for a dehydrated or powdered shoyu), and Togano (1921 Ref??). Matsuoka (1921) described a method for controlled enzyme hydrolysis of soybeans.

Prior to 1905 all of the Asians who wrote about soy sauce in English were Japanese. In 1905, however, Bui Quang Chieu of Tonkin (now North Vietnam) wrote the first description of the unique Vietnamese fermented soyfood, tuong , a thick unfiltered sauce made with glutinous rice (or corn) koji and roasted soybeans. In 1918 Shih, also Chinese, gave a more detailed report on how Chinese soy sauce was made.

Reports on soy sauce by Westerners appeared sporadically during the early 1900s. Sawer (1910, in Africa) and Sahr (1913, in Hawaii) wrote about the proportions of ingredients in shoyu. Stuart (1911, an American) in his materia medica written in China, described various types of Chinese soy sauce (chiang-yu?? sp?? and shih-yu ), mentioned that it was widely exported to India and Europe for use as a base for other seasonings, and said that in China it was considered to provoke the appetite, correct any injurious qualities of food, and serve many medicinal purposes. Krauss (1911, in Hawaii) noted that the product was still called "soy."

As noted previously, a number of good, early, English-language articles about soy sauce in Asia were published in the Philippines, including those by Gibbs and Agcaoili (1912), Groff (1919), Orosa (1932), and Adriano (1934). Groff's 10-page "Soy-Sauce Manufacturing in Kwantung, China," was one of the best descriptions to date of soy sauce production in China.

Loomis (1914) noted that soy, soy sauce, or shoyu (he used all three terms) was still the only soyfoods used to any extent among Occidental nations, that it formed the principal ingredient of Worcestershire sauce and similar table sauces, and that it was also used to some extent in bouillon cubes. Japanese shoyu was usually imported into the US in wooden tubs holding about 3 gallons each; these wholesaled for $0.75 to $1.50 per tub. Jordan (1918) noted that "Soy sauce is destined for greater use . . . It can be purchased at Chinese groceries in this country and probably from the majority of Chinese restaurants." Later (1936) Business Week would speak of "the familiar soya sauce for chop suey," indicating that during this period, in fact until the 1950s, soy sauce in America was typically associated with Chinese food and food stores, rather than with Japanese.

The first serious study of soy sauce in the United States began in 1918 at the USDA Bureau of Chemistry, when Dr. Takahashi of Tokyo Imperial University worked for a month with Charles Thom and Margaret Church. In 1921 Thom and Church published " Aspergillus flavus, A. oryzae , and Associated Species." They noted that "When numerous cultures from the soy or shoyu industry of Japan or China are brought together, a whole series of forms are found which bridge the gap between A. oryzae and A. flavus ." In 1922 K. Oshima, the Japanese researcher who had studied shoyu with Thom and Church wrote "Promising Development of Soya Bean Sauce," and discussed the role of A. oryzae-flavus protease in shoyu brewing. In 1923 Church wrote her 26-page "Soy and Related Fermentations," the most extensive study of soy sauce ever published in the US. She described the mold as being from the Aspergillus flavus-oryzae ?? group, described the activity of bacteria and yeasts during the fermentation, and noted that certain Japanese manufacturers added pure cultures of Zygosaccharomyces yeast when adding the brine to the koji (Takahashi and Yukawa 1915). Church noted that the best shoyu was sold under the Japanese labels "Mogi" or "Kikkoman." However, she was primarily interested in starting a shoyu industry in the US.

Of the almost innumerable ways in which soybeans are used in the Orient . . . soy sauce seems to offer prospects of more immediate adoption in the US than any other product. Soy sauce has already gained a foothold with frequenters of Chinese-American restaurants. Table sauces containing soy sauce as an ingredient are to be had in a great variety of grades and flavors . . . The manufacturers of table sauces and condiments interested in soy sauce are among the largest and best known firms of the US.

In 1921 Selman Waksman of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station described the "preparation of a soluble protein extract from soy beans," made from a koji of defatted soybean meal. The finished sauce, to which various salts and meat extract were added, was unique and inexpensive; it was recommended for use in infant feeding (since it was predigested) and diabetic diets (since it was practically sugar free).

Piper and Morse (1923) gave a good 9-page review of information, entitled "Shoyu or Soy Sauce, and including 8 photographs by Frank N. Meyer and by Goff. In 1928 Dyson wrote "Manufacture of Soy Sauce."

In 1932 Blumenthal and Thor did a 3-year comparative nutritional analysis of the shoyu shipped into the US (most of which was reported to contain added soy sauce), and discussed the manufacture of Worcestershire sauce in the US. In 1935 A.R. Staley discussed the new soy sauce made by the A.E. Staley Mfg. Co. In 1938 Snelling (Ref?? where??) patented a process for making soy sauce that was similar to the semichemical method patented by Kikkoman in 1944; after the protein was half hydrolyzed with acid at 100°C, the hydrolysis was finished by koji enzymes. Minor (1945) in "Soya Sauce Processes and How They Can be Improved," also recommended a combination of the mold-enzyme and acid hydrolysis methods, suggesting that half of the total sauce volume be prepared by each method, followed by an aging of the mixture in wooden vats to improve the flavor. In 1947 Lockwood of the USDA Northern Regional Research Center, working with a Chinese researcher Pei Sung King, published "The Production of Chinese Soya Sauce," attempting to adapt the traditional East-Asian method to Western conditions. The article was expanded in 1952 by Lockwood and Smith. In 1948 C.P. Li, in The Chemical Arts of Old China devoted a long section to "The Method of Preparing Soybean Sauce in China."

There was little published on soy sauce in the West during the 1950s. A review of the literature and basic information appeared in Markley (1950, by whom??) and in Chen (1956). In 1951 Hong at MIT wrote a thesis on "The Investigation of Soy Sauce Manufacture."

Kikkoman and the Rise of Japanese Shoyu in America . As we have seen, throughout the 20th century until the late 1940s Americans viewed soy sauce as a largely Chinese product, used to season foods in Chinese restaurants, sold at Chinese grocery stores, and marketed under Chinese brand names (although often made by US firms, such as La Choy). After World War II, the image of soy sauce in the West began to change. In 1949 Japan resumed its exports to America. That year 251,000 gallons of shoyu were imported by America, increasing to 333,600 gallons by 1954. Approximately 85% of the Japanese imports during this period were Kikkoman shoyu. The major city outlets for imported Japanese shoyu in 1954 were San Francisco (97,000 gallons), Honolulu (92,000), Los Angeles (72,000), Guam (31,000), Vancouver (20,000), New York (18,000), Seattle (14,000), and Chicago (8,000).

Starting in the early 1960s there was a rapid increase in the number of Japanese restaurants in the West and a corresponding rise of interest in Japanese foods, which were increasingly widely available. In the restaurants Americans met shoyu in an entirely new and very attractive atmosphere, served on a delicious array of newly introduced Japanese foods; sukiyaki, teriyaki, tempura, and the like. Demand for Japanese-style shoyu grew steadily.

Kikkoman, still based in Japan, was watching the potentially huge American market with a samurai eye. In 1956 the company made its first major move by running prime-time television ads during the presidential election returns. But the message was a new and unexpected one. Kikkoman shoyu was an international seasoning, delicious of course on Japanese foods, but perhaps even better on America's favorite traditional dishes such as steak, chicken, fish, corn on the cob, and the like. Americans tried Kikkoman's ideas, and loved them. They also began to discover that Kikkoman's shoyu tasted much different from Chinese soy sauce and from American-made nonfermented HVP soy sauce. Kikkoman's sales increased dramatically. In 1957 Kikkoman established its first office in the US, Kikkoman International, Inc., with headquarters in San Francisco. They soon set up offices in other cities, and new import and distribution networks. The full story of these developments is told in Chapter 74. Then in June 1973, with sales booming, Kikkoman opened the largest shoyu manufacturing plant in the Western world, in Walworth, Wisconsin. Its initial capacity was 10,000 kl (2.64 million gallons) a year; by the late 1970s the capacity had been doubled. Kikkoman did extensive and very professional advertising, using television and other media, and always with the objective of Americanizing their shoyu and Teriyaki Sauce, and pointing out to Americans that their product was completely different from the HVP soy sauces (such as La Choy and Chun King) which were initially the best-selling brands in the US. Finally in 1976, after decades of hard and creative effort, Kikkoman saw its dream come true as Kikkoman shoyu passed La Choy to become America's best-selling soy sauce. Apparently, as Kikkoman had thought, Americans could recognize a superior product when they were shown one. Yet even by 1981 (update??) the market for shoyu in America was still in its infancy, with per capita consumption being about 5 fluid ounces (148 ml), or only about 2% of the 340 fluid ounces (10,000 ml) in Japan.

Macrobiotics, Tamari, and Natural Shoyu . Among the small (5-7% ??) but steadily growing sector of the American population seriously interested in natural foods (source??), a strong interest in natural shoyu developed starting in the early 1960s, thanks in large part to the efforts of the macrobiotic community, led initially by George Ohsawa. As mentioned earlier, Ohsawa was deeply interested in introducing Japan's traditional, naturally fermented shoyu to the West, starting with Europe, where he was living (in Paris).

In America, the word "tamari" was introduced in Ohsawa's first two books, Zen Macrobiotics (1965) and Zen Cookery (1966). In the firmer book, Ohsawa referred to tamari as "Macrobiotic soy sauce" and said that Ohsawa tamari was "soy sauce produced by the traditional, biological, sugarless method." He recommended its use in a number of medicinal drinks. In Zen Cookery he had a 2-page section on "Tamari Soy Sauce" containing eight recipes for its use.

The macrobiotic movement in America decided to import rather than try to make its own natural shoyu. In the late 1960s, Erewhon in Boston began importing a custom-made high-quality product from Japan; it was specially made for Erewhon by Sendai Miso-Shoyu Co. using whole soybeans organically grown in America, natural temperature fermentation, cedar vats, and no preservatives. By the mid-1970s similar products, all labeled "Tamari," were being imported and distributed by Westbrae Natural Foods, Soken Trading Co., Chico-San, Pure & Simple, Eden Foods, and Llama Trading Co. Japanese makers included Fueki, Kinmei, and Marushima. The products contained 1.50 to 1.92% nitrogen, 17.20 to 17.80% sodium chloride, and 1.31 to 2.87% natural alcohol. They were sold almost entirely at natural and health food stores. By 1980 an estimated 200,000 ?? gallons were being sold annually; this was roughly 7%?? of total soy sauce sales in the US.

Because of the curious widespread popularity of the term "tamari" in America, Japanese makers of real tamari (which contained little or no wheat) began to take serious interest in the growing American natural-foods and macrobiotic markets. The first company to market real Japanese tamari in America was San-Jirushi, a large company in Kuwana, Mie prefecture (central Japan). Founded in 1804, it was reported to be Japan's largest maker of real tamari. San-Jirushi opened an office in Virginia in 1980 and sold both regular and low-salt San-J Tamari; these were especially aimed at large institutional users and natural food consumers who wanted a savory, all-purpose, low-sodium seasoning. Some controversy arose concerning the ingredients and fermentation time of San-Jirushi's product, but it proved successful and the company planned to build a plant in Virginia starting in late 1982??. San Jirushi's vigorous campaign of nationwide full-page color ads stressing that it was the "real tamari" helped to stop the misuse of the term "tamari" to refer to natural shoyu.

A product related to tamari, miso-damari (the liquid which forms atop soybean miso during its fermentation) was introduced by Marusan Inc. in both liquid and granular form ("tamari powder") from their New Jersey headquarters starting in 1980.

Research and Publications on Soy Sauce (1960-1981) . Considering that soy sauce is the best known and most widely used soyfood in the West, it is surprising how little research and publication related to it has been done by Western researchers. By far the best information in English has been published by Japanese and Chinese scientists. Foremost among these was Dr. Tamotsu Yokotsuka of Kikkoman in Japan. In 1960 he published "Aroma and Flavor of Japanese Soy Sauce," the best review article on shoyu to date in English, containing detailed information on shoyu history and the chemistry and biochemistry of the shoyu process, plus 240-references. Equally outstanding were Yokotsuka's subsequent publications on shoyu in 1964, 1971, and 1981??

Other important articles on shoyu in English were published by Onishi (1963; about shoyu yeasts) and by Fukushima (1979; 1981). Fukushima, director of Kikkoman's plant in Wisconsin, presented his excellent papers on shoyu and other fermented soyfoods at international soy protein symposia, thus reaching a large, key audience.

Other publications on shoyu by Americans included general introductions and brief reviews of the literature as by Hesseltine (1965, 1966) and Hesseltine and Wang (1967, 1978). The first comprehensive history of soy sauce and shoyu in English appeared in The Book of Miso by Shurtleff and Aoyagi (1976, 1981, 1983). In 1969 Shinojima and Ashihara wrote Practical Shoyu Cooking and in 1973 the Kikkoman Shoyu Co. published The Kikkoman Way of Fine Eating , a shoyu guidebook and cookbook with both Western-style and Japanese recipes. In 1976 the book was retitled The Kikkoman Cookbook: Your Way to Better Flavor .

Types of Soy Sauce Available in the West (At start of chapter??). Most people in the West, including many who use soy sauce regularly, are not aware that there are two fundamentally different types of soy sauce widely sold in the West: fermented soy sauce and nonfermented HVP soy sauce, also called "chemical soy sauce." The two can usually be distinguished by simply reading the label on the bottle. Those who know soy sauce virtually always prefer the fermented product.

Fermented soy sauce can be divided into three basic types: Japanese shoyu (containing equal parts soybeans and wheat), Chinese soy sauce or tamari-shoyu (containing mostly soybeans and no more than 10% wheat), and thick sweetened soy sauces (such as Indonesian kechap). There are two basic types of Japanese shoyu sold in America. Kikkoman-type modern shoyu (containing water, wheat, defatted soybeans, salt, and sodium benzoate preservative) and the more traditional natural shoyu (containing water, whole soybeans, wheat, and sea salt). Kikkoman's shoyu is fermented in epoxy-lined vats at 70-85°F for an average of 6 months. Natural shoyu (all of which is imported from Japan), is typically fermented in cedar vats at the natural air temperature for 12-18 months. As of 1981 some natural shoyu (sold under brand names such as Soken, Erewhon, and Eden?? was still being mislabeled "tamari;" remember, real tamari contains little or no wheat.

HVP soy sauce is sold under brand names such as La Choy and Chun King. A typical ingredients listing reads: "Hydrolyzed protein extracted from corn and soybeans, water, salt, corn syrup, caramel color." (Preservative??) This product takes less than one day to make. The hexane-defatted soybeans and corn are immersed in strong (15-30%) hydrochloric acid at 80°C for 5-15 hours, then neutralized with sodium hydroxide or sodium carbonate. The tan liquid hydrolysate (HVP) is then filtered off. It contains about 40% solids; of these, 35-40% is sodium chloride (table salt) and the rest is amino acids, including 8% glutamic acid. This HVP can be sold as is, or spray dried. To make HVP soy sauce, it is simply mixed with water, salt, corn syrup, and caramel, (preservative??) bottled, and sold. The main advantage of this process is that production costs are much lower than for fermented soy sauce, so the product can retail for 10-15% less than Kikkoman-type modern soy sauce. But there are three major disadvantages: (1) During hydrolysis various secondary compounds are formed which have undesirable odors and flavors; these include levulinic acid, formic acid, various sulfur compounds, and furfurol, which are not present in fermented soy sauce; (2) the natural aromatic compounds and alcohols that create rich, satisfying, complex flavor and aroma in fermented soy sauce are lacking in the chemical product, which has a strong, slightly bitter flavor; and (3) The acid hydrolysis destroys almost all of the trytophan and some of the methionine, both essential amino acids (Fukushima 1981??).

Second generation products containing soy sauce include teriyaki-, sweet & sour-, sukiyaki-, tempura-, Worcestershire-, and steak sauces. Some soy-sauce-like products sold at health food stores list "soya bouillon base" as a main ingredient; this is a misleading term for HVP.

A few words about the salt in soy sauce. The Japanese Agricultural Standards require that salt and other nutrients be stated in grams per 100 milliliters, while the US Food and Drug Administration requires that they be stated in grams per 100 grams. Thus Kikkoman shoyu contains 17.5% by the w/v Japanese method but only 14.5% by the US w/w method, since shoyu weighs 1.18 times as much as water. Shoyu also contains about 10% protein ??. One of the greatest nutritional and health benefits of using shoyu is that it can help reduce our intake of both fats and salt. Most Westerners who season their foods with straight salt, also use plenty of oil with the salt (as in dressings and on meats) to soften the salt's sharpness. Seasoning with shoyu allows you to use much less sodium chloride to get the same degree of seasoning satisfaction and avoid the oil altogether. Although shoyu contains six times the salinity of sea water, it does not taste all that salty since the amino acids and the aging process mellow and soften the salt's initial sharpness.

Production and Consumption of Soy Sauce in the US . Production and consumption of soy sauce in America increased very rapidly between 1950 and 1981, with total consumption in 1981 reaching an estimated 43,350 kl or 11,452,000 gallons (Fukushima 1981). A graph of this increase is shown in Figure ??. US per capita consumption of soy sauce was about 188 ml (6.36 ounces) per year; this is less than 2% of the 10,000 ml consumed per capita each year in Japan.

Of the soy sauce consumed in the US, an estimated 92% was made domestically and 8% was imported. Of the domestically made product, 39% was fermented and 61% was nonfermented HVP based. (See SIM??) All of the imported soy sauce was fermented??. All of the traditional shoyu in the US, an estimated 1136 kl or 300,000 gallons in 1981, was imported from Japan. (On MS p 67 I said 200,000 gal). This was about 6% of the amount Kikkoman produced in the US. Westbrae and Erewhon each had 30-40% of this total, while Soken, Eden, and Chico-San divided the rest. Of all imported soy sauce, an estimated 40% came from Japan and 60% from China. (Korea??) Roughly 95% of all fermented Chinese soy sauce in America was imported. Of the fermented soy sauce made in the US, an estimated 98% was Japanese-style shoyu and 2% Chinese-style soy sauce.

As of December 1981 (update??), there were roughly 15 to 30 manufacturers of soy sauce in the US, including 4 in Hawaii. However only 5 in the US and 3 ?? in Hawaii made fermented soy sauce; the rest just purchased liquid HVP in bulk, mixed it with corn syrup, caramel, and salt, and bottled it . . . a very simple operation. In 1984 roughly 98% of all soy sauce made in America was manufactured by three companies: Kikkoman (50%), La Choy (32%), and Chun King (16%). Makers of Chinese fermented soy sauce include Wei-Chuan??, and Wing Nien in California, and Mandarin Soy Sauce Inc. in New York. The West's only Vietnamese soy sauce (naturally fermented tuong) was made by Vietnam Food & Drink in Maryland. The main maker of Japanese shoyu was Kikkoman. US manufacturers used 15,200 tons of soybeans to make 54,800 tons (11 million gallons), which wholesaled for $145 million and retailed for $203 million.

HVP production in the Western world was estimated to be 55,000 tons (on a dry weight or solids basis) in 1981, worth more than $100 million per year (Source??). About 20,000 tons of this was produced in the USA and 35,000 tons in Europe. Main US uses?? in bouillon cubes, soups, Worcestershire sauce, and Maggi seasoning. Large US manufacturers included A.E. Staley Mfg. Co., Hercules Chemical, Griffith Laboratories, and Stangey. Market share of each??

The Future . As Americans discover the difference between Japanese-style fermented shoyu and HVP soy sauce, we foresee a steady trend toward consumption of the former. [??Yet there may also be an increase in the manufacture of shoyu using purified enzymes in place of koji, to reduce costs and fermentation times, with less loss in quality than with acid hydrolysis]. As the market for natural, preservative-free shoyu grows, we think that Kikkoman will make a domestic preservative-free brand and that at least one Japanese manufacturer will start to make natural shoyu in America. As Americans discover the great versatility of shoyu and the way it can be used to reduce consumption of salt and fat, we foresee a steady increase in per capita consumption, doubling between ?? and 1990. The best known soyfood in the West for several hundred years, fine soy sauce will continue to play a leading role in introducing Americans and Europeans to the many benefits of this fine family of foods.


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