Soy sauce is often said to have originated from a fermented food called "Sho" (pronounced in Japanese as "Hishio" or "Bishio" and is as in "Sho-yu"), or Jiang in Chinese. The recipe of Jiang came from China, where fermented food has a 3,000 year history.
Sho was used in preparing a variety of foods including vegetables, rice crackers, delicacies, seaweed, pickles, fish and flesh. Sho is used particularly for vegetables, pickles or seaweed is called "Kusa-bishio". Conversely, "Uo-Bishio" is for fish and "Shishi-bishio" is used in fermenting flesh and meat.
In Japan the word Sho (Hishio) now exclusively refers to foods fermented from soybeans. The original recipes of Sho have not been found aside for one exception: "General Instructions and Recipes", part of the Daizen-ge in the Engishiki. This recipe states that Sho made to present to the emperor consists of soybeans, melted rice, glutinous rice, wheat, liquor and salt. It is similar to the ingredients you may find in soy sauce today however, the proportion of ingredients and other secrets in crafting the soy sauce is well kept in each brewery.
In 13th century, the method of making "miso", another form of fermented soybeans, was introduced to Japan from Zhenjiang in the southwestern Jiangsu province, People's Republic of China. Hottoh Kokushi taught it at Kokoku-ji temple in Yura, Wakayama and it is now known for "Kinzanji miso", which contains vegetables such as pickled "uri" (melon), "shoga" (ginger), "nasu" (eggplant) and herbs like "shiso" (perilla) and "sansho" (zanthoxylum piperitum). "Tamari" was the brown thick liquid originally found in casks of fermenting soybeans miso in Yuasa, Wakayama and, with its stronger flavor, was later used to cook food like soups, stews and baked dishes. This is how Shoyu was introduced to Japanese daily life and its method was spread from a little town of Yuasa to all over Japan. For example, Yamasa was originally founded in Yuasa and moved to Choshi, Chiba before it established itself as one of worldwide leaders in soy sauce production.
In Japan there are now more than 1,500 producers of soy sauce including Kikkoman and Yamasa. Yet only 10 percent of them are creating soy sauce from the scratch because of its time-consuming process.
In order to bring perfection to the quality of soy sauce, the process requires a long time to allow soy proteins, starches and fats to be converted into "moromi", which contains easily-absorbed amino acids, sugars and fatty acids. There is no other way to obtain a perfectly balanced soy sauce in its color (at "sushi" restaurant, it is often called "murasaki : purple" due to the color), aroma and, of course, the taste.
From an economic standpoint this production method does not make sense to most of soy sauce producers. At Kaneiwa however, mass production of soy sauce is not first priority but a mission to deliver the highest quality soy sauce attainable today. This strategy has always been their foundation and the company is dedicated to crafting Shoyu in the old fashioned way.
Mastering a technique of making soy sauce in Yuasa, the founder of Kaneiwa decided to start his own brewery in Kanaya (currently Aridagawa) about 100 years ago. One of the reasons to locate its manufacturing site in Kanaya was the quality of water running through Kii Mountain: UNESCO's World Heritage site.
Kaneiwa was founded in 1912 and has been manufacturing soy sauce in the same manner from the day one even though its surrounding scenery has changed. Naturally brewed Kaneiwa's "Shoyu" is quietly waiting to be matured but its spirit is kicking and alive in historical wooden barrels. Please give a try to this unique soy sauce which you can not find any other places.
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