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 New Products From Japan - Shoyus and Tamaris 

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 of Owari."

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.

Shoyu is 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 savoriness.

Marumata Owarino Tamari at Corti Brothers
See Marumata
Owarino Tamari
Marumata Owarino Tamari 360ml (#2005)



 Semba Zenji Shotturu "Uoshoyu" 

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!

Semba Zenji Shotturu at Corti Brothers
See Semba Zenji
Shotturu "Uoshoyu"
Semba Zenji Shotturu "Uoshoyu" 360ml (#2006)


 Kanro Shoyu 

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 Valley.

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.

Yanai Kanro Shoyu Soy Sauce of Mitobishi at Corti Brothers
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Soy Sauce
Shoyu of Mitobishi
Yanai Kanro Shoyu Soy Sauce of Mitobishi 300ml bottle (#6040)


 Goyogura Shoyu  

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 cycle.  Slightly 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.

Kikkoman Goyogura Shoru Soy Sauce at Corti Brothers
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Goyogura Shoru
Soy Sauce
Kikkoman Goyogura Shoru Soy Sauce 250ml bottle.

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