SHOYU (Japanese Soy Sauce), an e-book published by Airy Rhyme, Inc., is one of a series of e-books about traditional Japanese culture. The series aims to introduce traditional items and skills deeply rooted in Japan, and so far consists of three titles: TENUGI (Japanese Hand Towels) , SHOYU (Japanese Soy Sauce) and WASHI (Japanese Paper). This series is called “Everyday Treasures of Japanese Slow Craft” (日本のスロークラフト」-日々の宝物―). Airy Rhyme explain ‘Slow Craft’ as follows: “The movement of ‘slow food’, originated in Italy, has spread worldwide and created new concepts such as ‘slow life’ and ‘slow work’. ‘Slow Craft’ represents fine items and foods existed for a long time and supported traditional handicrafts, lives and work of the people in different regions of Japan.”
This is the concept of the series:
“We would like to introduce to those of you who love hand-made items the existence of fine items traditionally handed from generation to generation in Japan. The way Japanese people create items is very precise, detailed and sophisticated. This series shows why and how they are produced and how they are used by introducing a Japanese traditional item, such as “Tenugui” (Japanese Hand Towels), “Shoyu” (Japanese Say Sauce), and “Washi” (Japanese Paper), in depth, respectively. This series features the traditional skills and methods passed on from generation to generation. In addition, it shows the process of each item is produced from diverse angles, including the spirit of such craftsmen creating them and the geographic background. We also strongly focused on the quality of the pictures. Many items are produced automatically and easily now, but we hope this would give you a good opportunity to learn more about Japanese fine slow crafts.”
Back in July I reviewed TENUGI (Japanese Hand Towels) and the lovely people at Airy Rhyme decided to send me another ebook to take a look at – SHOYU (Japanese Soy Sauce). Everyone knows about soy sauce, I thought. We all merrily pour it on our sushi and cook with it, but actually I had never really given much thought to where soy sauce came from or how it was made. This book, along with really beautiful pictures, takes the reader through everything one might wish to know about soy sauce, from what it is, to how to use it, and of course how it’s made.
“…shoyu (Japanese soy sauce), the cornerstone of Japanese cuisine. Like olive oil for Italian food, masala for Indian, and butter for French, a spoonful or shoyu draws any ingredients into a Japanese world.”
The book introduces soy sauce by saying that “No Japanese person can resist the appetite-whetting power of shoyu” and describing the aroma as something that “stirs a faint sense of hunger that causes some to pick up the pace as they walk home“. I’m not Japanese, but I can certainly relate to that! Even the picture of soy sauce and sushi above makes me salivate.
This ebook is colourful, interesting and educational. I learnt that “Shoyu similar to what we know today first appeared in Japan in the mid-thirteenth century” and that soy sauce is said to have been created from a watery batch of miso! I actually didn’t realise shoyu and miso were so closely related, but I really hadn’t ever given it any thought. Soy sauce is made by “cultivating koji mold on a mix of steamed soybeans and ground roasted wheat, soaking the mix in salt water for a long period, and then fermenting it slowly through the workings of multiple microorganisms.” That doesn’t actually sound so delicious, but it is very clever.
After describing in detail how shoyu is made, the book goes on to explain where it is made (in vast wooden vats in places such as Kawagoe in Saitama), and then details all of the different varieties of soy sauce (I had no idea there were so many!).
At over 300 pages, SHOYU (Japanese Soy Sauce) is a comprehensive guide to a very important part of Japanese culture and cuisine that most of us know relatively little about. If you’ve got an interest in Japanese food, I highly recommend it!
Please visit Airy Rhyme’s website for more information about how to purchase and download e-books in the “Everyday Treasures of Japanese Slow Craft” series.
(All images courtesy of Airy Rhyme, Inc.)