Posted in Foodstuffs

Foodstuff: Miso

Miso 1.jpg

Many westerners have, at the very least, encountered miso, in the ubiquitous Miso Soup offered in almost every Japanese Restaurant. It doesn’t however, appear all that frequently in the cupboards or fridges of many western homes, and this is a pity, as the umami rich product is extremely versatile, being useful for flavoring soups, stews, and sauces, and also as a marinating ingredient and a pickling agent, to boot. Being rich in flavorful glutamates, it is, one might say, a ‘natural’ MSG … [ Continue reading “Foodstuff: Miso”

Posted in Foodstuffs

Soy Sauce: Lee Kum Kee™ Brand – Dark Varieties

LKK Soy Sauce Dark 1

A few days ago, I featured Lee Kum Kee’s varieties of Light Soy Sauces. In that post I explained that the Chinese classification of soy sauces, as opposed to the western division into ‘light’ and ‘dark’, makes a distinction based on when the liquid, eventually to be sold as soy sauce, is drawn or ‘pulled’ off the fermenting soy bean mash. Light soy sauces are ‘early pulled’ (and identified as 生抽) while the dark type, or 老抽 (lǎo chōu) is ‘old pull’ soy sauce, meaning it is drawn off the mash at a later stage.

The dark soy sauces tend to be thicker and less salty than the ‘early pull’ light varieties and are more commonly used as a condiment rather than in cooking (although the dark types are typically used in the Chinese ‘red-cooked’ style of dish). Lee Kum Kee produces a number of dark types and, recently, I sampled their Premium Dark Soy Sauce and Mushroom Flavored Dark Soy. I can say, in advance, that while the Lee Kum Kee Premium Light Soy Sauce is an excellent product, the dark varieties I tasted are not… Continue reading “Soy Sauce: Lee Kum Kee™ Brand – Dark Varieties”

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Soy Sauce: Lee Kum Kee™ Brand – Light Varieties

LKK Soy Sauce Light 1

Although we have many Lee Kum Kee products commonly available up here in the North, their Soy Sauces have never appeared on our store shelves thus far. Accordingly, while I have actually heard some good reports on these, I was unable to try them until one of our local stores began stocking not one but four (!) different varieties.  For this post, we will look at the two that are classed as ‘Light’ soy sauces…

We will examine the distinction between ‘light’ and ‘dark’ soy sauces in a moment but, suffice it to say for now, these two Lee Kum Kee versions of ‘light’ come in two levels of quality. The first, pictured on the left, might, in default, be termed ‘regular’ while the other is specifically labeled as ‘Premium’. There is very little to distinguish the two, having regard to the label, save that the ‘regular’ includes ‘caramel color’ in the ingredient list, and the latter uses the Chinese characters 特級 (tèjí) meaning ‘top quality’ as part of the name. Accordingly, we will have to ‘taste-test’ the two individually to see what makes them distinct… Continue reading “Soy Sauce: Lee Kum Kee™ Brand – Light Varieties”

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Soy Sauce: Amano Brand™ (Tamari)

Soy Sauce Amano 01

These two soy products appeared in or local store recently. Larger bottles were also available, but I thought these cute little 250ml sized ones would be perfect for sampling purposes. Although manufactured in the US, the label on one bottle notes that the Amano family has been brewing since 1939, so whether they began to make soy sauce in that country, or else started in Japan and then later relocated is unclear.

The ostensible difference between the two is that the green labeled one is made without any wheat. Otherwise, both ingredient lists are limited to water, soy beans, salt and brewing starter (except for the addition of alcohol in the black labeled type). It is rather curious that both products are labeled as Tamari, because, as a general rule, regular Japanese soy sauce contains wheat, while the Tamari variety usually does not.

The appearance, aroma and taste of these two types are almost indistinguishable. The color is a slightly golden-red mahogany with good clarity, while the aroma of each is very much like a combination of fermenting beer and fresh baked bread. As for the taste, the first thing I noted is that these are amongst the saltiest soy sauces I have ever tasted, although the wheat-free variety was very slightly less so. The body of each has a quality very much like a good malt liquor and there are also some very tangy high-notes that are rather unique. All in all, the flavor of both types is quite good but each has a rather bitter and slightly metallic aftertaste I didn’t care for. This was not enough to ruin either, by any means, but, in consequence, I would rate the Amano brand a bit lower than Kikkoman. Either of these is not bad to have on hand as a ‘back-up’ soy, but I likely won’t go out of my way to stock them either…


Posted in Foodstuffs

Foodstuff: Azami™ Soy Sauce

Azami Soy 1

This brand of say sauce appeared on our local grocery store shelves recently and decided to check it out. Despite the Japanese name and the Chinese characters on the label, the name is trademarked to Loblaws, a Canadian grocery-store chain. However, when I tried to research the brand, Loblaws’ web-site had no entry for it and the only information I could find elsewhere was the same listing of the nutritional information found on the label. Naturally, I was a little intrigued… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Azami™ Soy Sauce”

Posted in Foodstuffs

Foodstuff: Kikkoman Soy Sauce

Kikkoman Soy 1

I have to confess to a bit of food snobbery when it comes this product. For years, I used to see little bottle of Kikkoman Soy Sauce gracing the tables of westernized Chinese restaurants and I always assumed that it was a cheapo product of a quality suitable to the sort of fast food it was intended to sprinkled upon. I did use it, of course, there being no other options, but merely splashing it over fried rice or the occasional vegetable dish didn’t really allow me to experience it properly. Eventually, however, I did end up buying some for use at home and, I have to say, it was something of a revelation… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Kikkoman Soy Sauce”

Posted in Notable Nosh

Notable Nosh: Edamame

Edamame 1

Edamame, for those unfamiliar, are young green soybeans that are often steamed or boiled and then seasoned before being eaten, frequently as a snack or appetizer. They have been a staple on Japanese restaurant menus in the west for quite a few years now (and the odd Chinese restaurant too), but they are also being increasingly more common in non-Asian restaurants, even being included as appetizers in pubs and the like. So far, though, I have only eaten them in Japanese restaurants.

The ones pictured above were served to me in Ottawa recently and were tossed in butter and then coarse salt before coming to the table. Butter may not sound typically Japanese but, in fact, it is not that uncommon in the cuisine any longer and it certainly does go with the beans. I am not sure if the ones I had on this occasion were steamed or boiled but they were just a little underdone and not quite as tender as others I have had… Continue reading “Notable Nosh: Edamame”

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Foodstuff: Pearl River Bridge Brand Light Soy Sauce

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who is not familiar with soy sauce but few people actually appreciate the considerable diversity of this interesting condiment. Most people tend to regard one soy sauce as being pretty much like another but, in truth, there are many varieties, each with their own character and uses. The variety you see pictured above, manufactured by the Pearl River Bridge Company in southern China, has been available in Canada for at least a couple of decades now and is one of the best I have ever come across… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Pearl River Bridge Brand Light Soy Sauce”