Kishibori Shoyu Artisanal soy sauce
In these days of increased demand for effete, high-quality food ingredients, we slowly are being introduced to the highest artisanal food components imported from Asia. One of these is a new introduction from Japan, being carried by Whole Foods: Kishibori Shoyu (3.3 ounces, $6.99; 12.1 ounces, $12.99). This is an old-school, traditionally brewed and aged soy sauce manufactured by Takesan Co., located on the small island of Shodoshima in the Seto Inland Sea, a huge bay in southeastern Japan.
Shoyu simply means "soy sauce," and the higher grades typically are made by smaller- to medium-sized, family-run operations, usually for generations. The labor costs for brewing artisanal grades are much higher, but the final product is vastly superior.
Made from the highest-quality steamed whole soybeans, toasted wheat, mineral water, sea salt, and nothing else, the sauce ferments for 18 months in large, 100-year-old wooden cider barrels. Shodoshima's mild winters (the temperature doesn't drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit) allow active but slow fermentation throughout the year, which encourages high levels of complex organic amino acids.
Most Americans are familiar only with the cheaper, one-dimensional pseudo-soys made here in the States with hardly any aging. Japanese soys are subtle when compared with the darker and more assertive Chinese soy sauces or the all-soybean Japanese tamari soy sauce: rich, dark, and very assertive.
If you were weaned on Kikkoman or sauces of that caliber, you won't believe the difference between it and Kishibori; it's like night and day. Kishibori's color is a clear reddish-brown, and it has a complex, floral aroma. The taste is clean and mellow, with rich layers of depth and flavor, a touch of yeast and nuttiness, with an umami finish. Salt is not the predominant element in the profile. This is a soy perfect for dipping sauces and refined glazes.