July 10, 2013
By Yuki HD
I recently spent a month visiting my family in Tokyo. I had so many great meals, went to an onsen (hot springs), a winery, and paid my respects to my family’s gravesite. Many places to visit.
I also had an opportunity to meet my new Instagram friend, Misako and her husband, Yasushi. This young couple used to live in the center of Tokyo, but now they live in the countryside, growing their own vegetables and eating local food. Both Misako and her husband are great cooks and their new life suits them.
They took me on a fun little tour of their favorite local spots. One such spot was the 200-year old Yugeta Shoyukura, a soy sauce brewery in Saitama prefecture. This family-owned business uses only fresh local ingredients and relies on methods proven through time. Kura in Japanese means “brewery” so usually shoyu breweries are called shoyukura, but Yugeta calls their brewery shoyu oukoku meaning “soy sauce kingdom”! It is very silly.
The process of shoyu-making is as follows.
The ingredients are soy, wheat, salt and koji (rice mold). They use almost the same amount of soy and wheat. First the soy is steamed, and the wheat is roasted and ground. Then the soy and wheat are mixed. The koji and salt are added and left to sit and ferment for at least one year in a Japanese cedar barrel. This mixture is called moromi.
The Japanese cedar barrel can be used for 300 to 400 years. It stands about 7.5 feet.
The moromi needs to interact with air. This allows the enzymes to blend evenly throughout the mixture.
These show the aging process of moromi fermentation, from left to right:
The final process is compression, which creates the lees (by-products) after pressing.
After this process, the soy sauce is called nama-shoyu (raw shoyu). This means that the draft soy-sauce has all the right enzymes, but needs to be heated or micro-filtered for pasteurization. Here it is bottled:
Yuget’a's research effort is constant. They collaborate with the local agricultural university and bake bread with the yeast made using the lees. They also create ice cream with the lees — the taste is just like salted caramel gelato with lots of umami!
This photo is from Misako, from the Shoyu Kingdom Festival.
They put speakers in the tour booth to play the sounds of shoyu fermenting.
Now you understand how crazy the Japanese are about their shoyu.
YUGETA SHOYU BREWERY
Hidaka City, Saitama
*Yuki HD is a Tokyo native with deep roots in izakaya-style home cooking. She currently makes her home in the southwestern United States where the foods of many cultures meet and mingle. Kuishinbo means “enthusiastic eater” in Japanese. Eat up!