How much do you know about soy sauce? If you’re anything like me, then probably not a lot! I love it, and happily pour it over stir fries and sushi (mixed with a little wasabi). But I was embarrassingly ignorant about the story and history behind it. I was recently invited to an event by Kikkoman and I was excited to learn more about it, and banish my soy-related ignorance. Not only that, but the event was hosted on the 38th floor of Heron Tower at Sushisamba, a Japanese-Brazilian-Peruvian restaurant which had been on my list for some time but I’d just never got around to visiting.
Upon arrival (after getting rather giddy and excited by the glass lift journey to the top – I know I’m late to the party but I challenge anyone not to get excited by it if you’re a Sushisamba lift virgin. Unless you’re scared of heights, then it’s probably not for you!), we were greeted with cocktails. With Kikkoman soy sauce in them. As regular readers will know, I’m all for trying new things, the more adventurous, the better!
I tried them both and I had a completely open mind, but they weren’t really to my tastes – a bit too salty for my liking when it comes to cocktails. But it was fun to have tried them and I liked the idea behind the exercise.
After admiring the view (and it really is spectacular!), we were seated in the private dining area and there was about 40 of us – one of the biggest group dinners I’ve ever been to, in without a doubt the most impressive location.
The menu was just as impressive as the venue, but before we started eating, we were welcomed by the charming Mr Bing-yu Lee from Kikkoman and we spoke about what makes a high quality soy sauce. There are a number of things to look for:
1. Look at the sauce
The colour unique to soy sauce is the result of the ‘Maillard Reaction’, which begins two or three months after brewing starts. In this reaction, glucose and other sugars combine with amino acids to produce a brown pigment called melanoidin, which gives soy sauce its beautiful reddish-brown colour. Soy sauce grows darker owing to oxidization when it comes into contact with air. Storage at lower temperatures inhibits this colour deterioration, and so Kikkoman recommends that you store soy sauce in the fridge once the bottle has been opened.
2. Look at the label
At the supermarket, the quality of soy sauce can be checked even before you buy it!
First, simply compare the nutrition facts labels, especially the protein amounts. Generally speaking, higher protein content is better for soy sauce. Secondly, check the ingredients list. Kikkoman Soy Sauce is made from only four natural ingredients: water, soybeans, wheat and salt. Sometimes other brands have seven or more ingredients to make their products cheaper and the taste acceptable.
3. Taste the flavours
A good Soy Sauce should have a harmonious combination of the five basic flavours sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Soy sauce is particularly rich in naturally produced umami components that are generated during the brewing process. These umami components are composed of about 20 different amino acids produced as the koji mold dissolves the proteins contained in the soybeans and wheat.
4. Experience the complex aromas
During the brewing process that takes several months, roughly 300 different aroma components are produced, including those of flowers, fruits, whiskey and coffee.
5. Feel the difference
If the soy sauce is naturally brewed, it is pure. The viscosity of the soy sauce can help to see this difference. Kikkoman naturally brewed soy sauce is easy to swirl around a small bowl, which can expose its aroma, however a chemically produced soy sauce is hard to swirl.
6. Test with chopsticks!
You can use the chopstick test to see the real difference between soy sauces. Chemically produced soy sauce forms a thick and dark drop at the end of the chopstick. Kikkoman naturally brewed soy sauce on the other hand hardly sticks to the chopstick due to its smooth texture.
So there you go, hopefully you’ve learned something new!
You might be wondering what we ate at Sushisamba, especially after I mentioned earlier how exciting the menu looked. This is what we tucked into (along with some fabulous wines):
Edamame with sea salt
Maiz Cancha with lime spice
Assorted Nigiri: yellowtail, salmon, shrimp
Ezo: soy-marinated salmon, asparagus, onion, chives, sesame, tempura crunch, soy paper, wasabi mayonnaise
Tokyo Sky Tree: spicy bigeye tuna, tempura crunch, lotus root, aji panca, spicy mayo
Small Plates & Raw Bar
Crispy Wagyu Taquitos: avocado and shichimi mayo
Bolinhos De Bacalhau: cod, lime and shichimi togarashi mayo, aji amarillo, purple peruvian potato
Tuna Ceviche: pomegranate leche de tigre, maiz morado, wasabi peas, basil
Poussin: Kikkoman soy terikayi, Japanese-style mayonnaise, yuzu kosho
Hamachi Kama: lime, Kikkoman soy su-shoyu
Churrasco Rio Grande: ribeye, chorizo, wagyu picanha
Chocolate Banana Cake: maple butter, plantain chip, vanilla rum ice cream
As you can see from the photos, it was certainly a visual feast! And all of the food was beautiful as you would hope from such a highly regarded restaurant (with high prices). The steak was perfect and I was a big fan of the Hamachi Kama (the collar of yellowtail fish) – it had so much flavour and was perfectly cooked.
Another reason for the event, aside to educate people about the wonders of soy sauce, was to launch a new range of teriyaki sauces. Teriyaki is growing in popularity in the UK (‘teri’ means ‘glaze or shine’ and ‘yaki’ means ‘to grill’) This blend of naturally brewed soy sauce, wine and spices is really convenient as it takes as little as 30 minutes to marinate and add an aromatic flavour and tenderness to meat, fish and veggies!
The new teriyaki sauces now come in bottles with Roasted Garlic, Toasted Sesame and BBQ Sauce with Honey, and these both be used as a marinade for barbecued food and as a quick cooking sauce for everyday meals like stir-fries. The roasted garlic brings added savoury richness and depth of flavour to meats, fish and vegetables, and the addition of sesame brings a natural smoky and nutty flavour, excellent with fried chicken or salmon. While the touch of honey to balance the saltiness of the soy sauce, and a thicker, velvety texture makes a change from the ubiquitous smoky, American-style BBQ sauces.
Kikkoman has also introduced a brand new gluten-free Teriyaki Marinade to the range, along with the popular Tamari Gluten-free Soy Sauce.
These are all RRP £2.79 each, available from Ocado. I’ve been trying them out at home and I can confirm they’re really easy to use and transform simple dishes like stir fry. Kikkoman have also kindly provided some recipes which I’m sharing with you here:
Super Sesame Burger
Takes 30 minutes
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 good quality quarter-pound beef burgers
4 sesame seed burger buns, halved and cut sides toasted
8 tbsp Kikkoman Teriyaki Sauce with Toasted Sesame
4 slices cheddar cheese
little gem leaves
½ red onion, sliced into thin rings
1 beef tomato, sliced
- Heat oil in non-stick frying pan and cook burgers for 3-4 minutes on each side.
- Reduce heat then add Kikkoman Teriyaki Sauce with Toasted Sesame for further 2 minutes.
- Add a slice of cheese to each burger and melt.
- Top base of toasted bun with little gem lettuce, onion and tomato then add the burger.
- Finish with warm leftover sauce from the pan then top with the bun lid.
Teriyaki pork steaks with a colourful salad
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 15 mins
For the vegetable salad
2 large courgettes
2 large carrots
150g green beans, cooked
1tbsp orange juice
1tbsp white sesame seeds
1tbsp sunflower oil
For the pork steak kebabs
4 pork neck steaks
4tbsp Kikkoman Teriyaki BBQ Sauce with Honey
Extra Kikkoman Teriyaki BBQ Sauce with Honey for dipping
- For the salad, cut the courgettes and carrots into matchsticks or use a spiralizer to turn them into ‘courgetti’ and ‘carretti’.
- Pile into a serving dish with the green beans.
- Cube the pork steaks and thread the cubes of pork onto four skewers.
- For the pork, heat barbecue coals until they are ashen or a gas barbecue to medium.
- Brush some of the Kikkoman Teriyaki BBQ Sauce with Honey over the pork and grill the kebabs for 5 minutes, turning them over regularly and brushing with the remaining sauce as they cook.
- Mix together the orange juice, oil and sesame seeds and pour over the vegetables. Toss lightly until coated.
- Serve the kebabs with the salad accompanied with extra sauce for dipping.
Kikkoman Tuna Poke Rice Roll
Takes 30 minutes
300g Japanese sushi rice
4 sheets nori
200g fresh tuna, diced small
1 avocado, diced small
juice ½ lemon
3 spring onions, finely chopped
1 yellow pepper, finely diced
3 tbsp Kikkoman Gluten-free Teriyaki Marinade
1 tsp wasabi paste
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
Handful fresh spinach leaves
- Wash the sushi rice until water runs clear.
- Place in a heavy based pan and add 330ml of water. Bring to the boil and cover. Once bubbling turn down the heat as low as possible and cook for 12 minutes.
- After 12 minutes turn the heat off and let the rice stand for 10 minutes before removing the saucepan lid and fluffing the rice.
- In a bowl mix together the tuna, avocado and lemon juice. Stir in the spring onions and yellow pepper.
- Mix together the wasabi paste and the Kikkoman Gluten-Free Teriyaki Marinade until the wasabi is dissolved and then add this to the tuna mix along with sesame seeds.
- Lay out the nori sheets and spread the rice over. Top half of the rice with spinach leaves and then the tuna mixture.
- Fold the uncovered side over, pressing down on the edge to seal.
- Slice into portions.
You can find out more about Kikkoman on their website here.
I was invited to dinner at Sushisamba by Kikkoman UK and FML PR, but did not receive any payment. All views are my own.