Japan is one of the world's
most exigent food producing and consuming countries. In my travels
there in November 2002, I went in search of new products and came
across two which I would like to point out. For some time Corti Brothers
has offered very exclusive soy sauces, o-shoyu, to our discriminating
customers. Since the demise of Mansan tamari, a product we offered
for several years, one of the reasons for going to Japan was to select
another tamari of very high quality. I found one.
With the help of our friends Masakazu and Chieko Koizumi, owners of Yoshiya
Co.Ltd., a supermarket chain in Tokyo, I did a lengthy tasting of different
tamari and other products. Corti Brothers can now offer the best one: Marumata Owarino Tamari.
Owarino Tamari is produced by Marumata
Shouten, established in 1834, located in Taketoya, Chita county, Aichi prefecture,
just south of Nagoya. Owari is the old name for this northern part of the
prefecture. Thus, this tamari is "Owari no tamari" or the "tamari
Produced from Japanese grown soybeans and natural sea salt, slowly aged for
three years in cedar casks, it is very thick, with a sweetish, smokey, meaty
full flavor. Not very salty tasting, with a thick body and deep flavor, Owarino
Tamari is very well balanced. It does not have any added alcohol for stability
and thus must be kept refrigerated once opened.
to the Japanese as soy sauce is to us, a necessary staple with today’s
fusion cooking. It is also a necessity for making some barbeque sauces and
marinades for summer cooking. I would like to point out the three we offer
which could be classified, rare, rarer, and rarest.
Rare, is the Owarino Tamari from the Marumata Shouten, established in 1834 in Taketoya, just south
of Nagoya, Japan. Owari is the old name of this prefecture, thus Owari
no tamari is “tamari
of Owari.” It is made only from Japanese soybeans and natural sea
salt; slowly aged for three years in cedar casks where it develops its
sweetish, smokey, meaty, full flavor, and thick body.
"But why be interested in tamari?" you may ask. It is not solely for its
use in Japanese and oriental cuisine. I find that a bit of it in western
dishes, where deep flavor is required-- like braises and brown sauces--
tamari offers just this. It deepens flavor in white sauces, especially
Bechamel, Mornay and others, providing some of that elusive character
called "umami" or
On this same trip, I discovered a little
known "soy" sauce, rare even in Japan. This is "Uoshoyu" or "Shotturu" which
is Japan's original flavoring sauce known as fish shoyu. Historically,
it was the essential cooking ingredient in Japan until the introduction
of soy sauce from China in the 1500s. In this regard it is much like
Garum in Rome and the West was, until this condiment disappeared towards
the end of the Renaissance.
Shotturu is produced by Semba
Zenjiro Shouten from a small, fatty, white fleshed fish called
hatahata (Arctoscopus japonicus) prevalent in the cold water off
Akita prefecture in the north end of Japan, now the only area
producing this seasoning. Shotturu, as garum must have, adds a
wonderful complexity to dishes when used in cooking or as a dipping
sauce. It can be added as an ingredient in a vinaigrette for salads,
in sauces, savory puddings, fish dishes or as a dipping sauce.
Shotturu should be kept at a cool room temperature, out of direct
light and refrigerated once opened. It too lends that elusive
savory character of "umami."
Garum, once the West's most sought after condiment, disappeared from usage
by the time of the Renaissance. Shotturu bears incorporating into your culinary
repertoire as the modern equivalent of garum. If nothing else, it is as historic!
Kanro Shoyu is the rarest. It is a double
fermented (saishikomi) shoyu which originated in Yanai city, Yamaguchi
prefecture. The double fermented term means that part of the water
used in fermenting the soy beans is replaced with an already made,
unpasteurized soy sauce, hence its “double fermented” name.
It is thick, intense with a deep creamy character, less persistent
than the shiro shoyu. It is much prized in the cooking of Kyoto
and for use with sushi and sashimi. Known as “sweet dew” it
is not well known even in Japan.
You might ask, “what
do these Japanese products have to do with summer?” They fit
very well with the dominant tastes of the season, yet are not so
dominant as to be fatiguing. One excellent way of using the various
soy sauces is a delicious, yet simple first course I have enjoyed
at the home of Mitsuko and Jan Schrem of Clos Pegase in the Napa
Mitsuko serves a small block of very good chilled “silken” tofu
(kinogoshi) with good shoyu on one side and light, fruity extra
virgin olive on the other, topped with grated fresh young ginger.
It is a delicious combination and goes equally well with full bodied
Chardonnay and high toned Sauvignon Blanc. You might even want to
experiment with our selection of Greek white wines. You will, however,
have to choose which of our shoyu you want to use.
Goyogura Shoya is produced in a special, red lacquered plant on
the site of the Kikkoman facility just outside Tokyo. It
is here that a special soy sauce is produced for the Emperor of
Japan's table. Goyogura is fermented only from Japanese
soy beans, wheat, and salt and bottled after a year's production
thicker and definitely more intensely flavored than the normal
soy sauce, it is an Imperial Household Warrant product. Corti
Brothers offers it, though it is rarely seen in even the most
prestigious stores in Japan.