Month: March 2015

Tamari zukuri

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I had the privilege to sitting in on a shoyu making workshop last week, and what I learnt was fascinating.  There are a number of types of shoyu – and these differ based on the proportion of soya beans that are used to make them.  Let me back track for a minute – shoyu is made of wheat and soya beans.  This is then fermented using koji and the liquid that forms is shoyu.  There are five main types of shoyukoikuchi, usukuchi, tamari, saishikomi and shiro shoyu.  So, as I mentioned, each one is made using a different proportion of soya beans, which impacts the taste of the shoyu.  The higher the proportion of soy bean the stronger the taste.  Tamari is made from 100% soy bean, and therefore it has the strongest taste (and is also gluten free).  Koikuchi and usukuchi shoyu have a proportion of around 50% soy bean and 50% wheat.  Sai shikomi shoyu, whereby the initial shoyu made is re-fermented with koji  is made of about 90% daizu and 10% wheat.  Shiro shoyu, the lightest of all the shoyus (both in colour and taste) is made up of 95% wheat, 5% soy bean.  In Japan the most common type of shoyu is koi kuchi, although the oldest is tamari shojin ryori would therefore have originally used only tamari shouyu although nowadays it seems most of the temple kitchens (at least the ones I have visited) use koikutchi shoyu.  It is believed that monks brought back fermented soy beans from China, and the liquid that had formed as a by product of the fermentation was the first time that shoyu (tamari) was discovered in Japan.

During our workshop we were lucky to try our hand at making shiro tamari – made from 100% wheat.  This is where is gets a bit tricky – in the UK there seems to be the belief that if the label says tamari it does not contain wheat.  In fact, tamari is actually quite a generic name ,and can be used for a product that contains both wheat and soy bean so anyone wanting to be gluten free should be careful!  Shiro tamari in this case is called tamari because in Japan there is a law that states if soy beans are not involved in the making of shoyu then it cannot be called shoyu – and therefore what we made was shiro (white) tamari.   The more wheat that is used the sweeter the flavour, and therefore shiro tamari is actually quite sweet, but its main USP is its colour – it is very light, and therefore does not disrupt the colour of stocks or soups.  Making it was surprisingly easy – all we needed was water, salt, wheat koji and some muscle.  There was a lot of stirring and shaking glass bottles to ensure the salt had completely dissolved.  Apparently in 3 months we will be able to use the liquid that forms since it will be shiro tamariTanoshimi desu (can’t wait)!