The Special Signature of Japanese Soy Sauce

Not many people give a lot of thought to soy sauce. After all, if you’ve seen on sauce, you’ve seen them all, right? Actually, the sauce that you find at a Japanese restaurant is a distinctly Japanese variety, which may very well be different than the sauce you might find in China.

The primary difference between Chinese soy sauce and Japanese soy sauce comes from the concentration of soybeans. Japanese soy sauce manufacturers tend to mix their soy with grains, usually wheat, during the fermenting process to give it a sweeter taste. Chinese soy sauce, by contrast, usually has little or no wheat in it. Most people in the West appreciate the sweet flavor of the Japanese variety, which explains why most soy sauce found in the United States is of Japanese origin.

How is Soy Sauce Made?

Soy sauce is a valuable part of much of the food at our Bellevue Japanese restaurant.  You dip your sushi in it, you sprinkle it on your rice, and it’s even a chief ingredient in teriyaki sauce.  But where does soy sauce come from?


  • The first part of the process is to soak and steam the soybeans, then mix these beans with roasted grains of wheat.

  • After this, the manufacturer wants to encourage koji mold to grow in the mix.  This breaks down the soy’s proteins and the wheat’s carbohydrates into a substance they call shoyu koji.  This process takes about three days.

  • This shoyu koji is then mixed with salt water to ferment and age for a few months.

  • After the fermentation process, the shoyu koji has turned into a thick mash.  This mash is pressed and strained through a cloth to remove the fluid.  This fluid is called “raw” soy sauce.

  • Finally, the raw soy sauce is cooked so as to pasteurize the mixture and bring an end to the chemical reactions, stabilizing the soy sauce.  Now it is ready to be bottled, sold, and enjoyed!

Where Did Soy Sauce Come From?

Have you ever wondered where soy sauce first came from? This simple condiment may not draw much attention, but it has had a long journey from its ancient roots to our Bellevue Japanese restaurant.

As is so often the case, the exact origins of soy sauce are shrouded in the more elusive corners of history. However, it would appear that it was first brewed in China. These were the times before people could refrigerate their food, so there was a strong need for other ways to preserve food. The popular method in China was to use seasonings like salt. The Chinese called the combination of preserved food and preserving agents jiang; they had their meat jiang, their seafood jiang, their vegetable jiang, and even grain-based jiang. Since grains and soybeans were easily accessible, it was this variety of jiang that most flourished.

As soybeans were fermented more and more, people discovered a byproduct of this preservation that served as a delicious seasoning. This was the earliest form of soy sauce, which flourished throughout the country and remains an important part of the culinary tradition to this day.