JOURNAL / JAPAN etc.(English)

JAPAN [Saitama]
Japanese Ingredients for the World’s Top Kitchens #32


Soy Sauce from Whole Unprocessed Beans


text by Michiko Watanabe / photographs by Daisuke Nakajima / English text by Susan Rogers Chikuba

Though the times are always changing, there are certain timeless ingredients from Japan that will never go out of style. Yukio Hattori, president of Hattori Nutrition College in Tokyo, introduces unique labors of love—items grown and produced with care and integrity by hardworking suppliers across the country.

A mere 15 percent of Japan’s 1,300 soy-sauce makers make their own koji starter; Yugeta in Saitama has been following this old way for a century, brewing its soy sauces in cedar vats using only beans, wheat, salt and the resident microbes as was the norm in the days before mass production. Careful temperature control during fermentation yields the rich enzyme mix that brings flavor and fragrance.

Saitama was the first prefecture to return to the prewar way of using whole, unprocessed soybeans to make soy sauce, fourth-generation proprietor Yohichi Yugeta tells us. Just as with sake, the brewing season is the colder months from October to April. Slow fermentation over more than a year draws out the umami from the bean proteins and transforms the wheat starches into a pleasant, full bouquet.

Crushed roasted wheat has been added to this vat of steamed soybeans in the first stage of koji production. The starter mold dies at 40º C, so the mixture is cooled to 25º with fan-blown air once it hits 35º.

(photo left)  The resulting koji is mixed with salted water in cedar vats. 
(photo right)  Fresh spring water feeds the ground on which the plant stands.

Whole soybeans yield the glycerin that gives Yugeta soy sauce its round flavor and red hue. 

(photo left)Yugeta was founded in 1923 . Its Soy Sauce Kingdom shop, a five minute walk away, is open daily. 
(photo right) Soy from Akita and Aomori is used for the organic label.

Yohichi Yugeta.

◎Yugeta Shoyu Ltd.
475 Tawame, Sakado, Saitama

(The Cuisine Magazine /June 2018)