Roast Beef, Ice Cream and Bread: Soy Sauce Isn’t Just for Sushi Anymore

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Soy sauce made to be eaten with bread.

Soy sauce belongs on sushi or in a broth or dipping sauce, at least according to food traditions. But more and more companies are trying to break the mold, developing new varieties of the centuries-old condiment.

Chocolate on beef

The Fukuoka-based Takata Food Manufacturing Corp., known for its Yamataka soy sauce, also produces a fragrant chocolate version of the sauce that it calls Umami Shoyu Chocolate.

The soy sauce is said to go well with roast beef or curry.

The company, established in 1896, distributes the soy sauce in 200-milliliter bottles, priced at ¥756 each, only to restaurants and supermarkets around Los Angeles.

Managing director Kotaro Takata, 34, conceived of the unique soy sauce in 2019 after watching a documentary about an old confectioner’s shop trying to revive its business by making chocolate. Takata, who had been struggling with declining demand for soy sauce, had a dream that night about combining chocolate and the salty condiment.

He set to out make his dream a reality and, after much trial and error, created an aromatic chocolate-flavored soy sauce using cacao powder from the Netherlands.

The new sauce was not well received within the company. However, he continued to promote it to his clients, and while on a business trip to the United States, a chef at a high-end restaurant told him that the creation was a sure-fire hit.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kotaro Takata recommends trying his chocolate-flavored soy sauce with roast beef.

In 2021, Takata began full-scale exports of the chocolate product.

“The taste of this soy sauce is beyond imagining. I want people to be pleasantly surprised when they try it,” Takata said.

The sauce was also sold in Japan for a limited time during a Valentine’s Day campaign in February.

For ice cream, bread

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Bottles of soy sauce topping for ice cream.

Ice Cream Shoyu, or soy sauce topping for ice cream, is one of the many soy sauce products made by Mitsuwa Shoyu Brewery in Yahatanishi Ward, Kitakyushu. It costs ¥486 for a 200-milliliter bottle.

Ice Cream Shoyu is low on salt and high on sweetness, while still having that quintessential soy sauce flavor. It tastes like caramel when eaten with vanilla ice cream or soft serve.

Etsuko Tone, 60, and her husband Tetsuya, 66, the company’s fourth-generation head, devised the dessert sauce.

“We were already good at making sweet soy sauce with less salt since the third-generation owner of the company had high blood pressure,” Etsuko said. “I hope people will enjoy the different flavors the soy sauce takes on with different kinds of ice cream.”

Nakamaru Shoyu, a soy sauce maker in Munakata, Fukuoka Prefecture, has developed Pankake Shoyu, or soy sauce for bread.

Company president Kazutomo Nagashima, 53, who had already been eating bread drizzled with the company’s soy sauce, created the product as he wanted to develop a soy sauce for bread that everyone could enjoy.

Pankake Shoyu, which is sweetened with sugar and apple juice, has a maple syrup-like flavor and a fruity aftertaste. It costs ¥450 for a 150-milliliter bottle.

Nagashima recommends trying the syrupy sauce on buttered toast, and he hopes it will become a standard “companion” to bread, like jam or butter.

“Find your favorite”

Soy sauce from Fukuoka Prefecture is often described as sweet. According to Daichi Ohama, 43, president of Fukuman Shoyu, a soy sauce maker in Tenjin, Fukuoka, this is because sugar was brought through the area as it was transported along the Nagasaki Kaido — a road that ran from Nagasaki to modern-day Kitakyushu during the Edo period (1603-1867).

Ohama, who is also a soy sauce sommelier, said that the local soy sauce might have gotten sweeter because sugar was so readily available.

“It has been the cultural norm in this area since ancient times to make food sweeter, so maybe that makes it easier for us today to create an unusual soy sauce,” Ohama said.

The company runs a tasting bar where customers can try more than 200 varieties of soy sauce from all over Japan for free. Ohama carefully selects a variety according to the ingredients he wants to pair it with, and introduces the sauce to the visitor.

“Since there are many soy sauce makers in Fukuoka, you get to have a choice,” said Ohama. “Enjoy the aroma just like you would with wine, and find your favorite soy sauce.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Daichi Ohama, president of Fukuman Shoyu and soy sauce sommelier