Cooking Outside the Box

Photo: Beet Poke with Sesame-Panko Shrimp Balls, recipe developed by Alex Seidel of Fruition in Denver.


Chefs are using soy sauce in innovative applications to bring unexpected umami to all sorts of dishes.

“Soy sauce has the perfect balance of five tastes,” says Andrew Hunter, corporate chef at Kikkoman Sales USA, Inc. “It’s no wonder it’s a favourite ‘chef’s secret’ to enhance the flavour of virtually any dish.”

A condiment whose history dates back thousands of years, soy sauce has been used to enhance all types of food products, from bacon and jerky to chocolate and gingerbread. So, what’s the secret behind the success? It’s the fermentation process that brings a delicate and complex balance of flavours to any recipe. Traditionally, soy sauce is fermented and aged for up to six months — much like a fine wine.

Fermentation intensifies the flavours of the natural ingredients (in this case water, soybeans, wheat and salt) into one of the world’s most umami-rich seasonings. In modern times, the love of soy sauce is growing strong and soy-sauce penetration has been rising steadily over the past decade, according to the Datassential Menu Trends database.

Chefs delight in creating their own special soy fusions, adding chopped garlic, shallots, ginger, chilies or dried Asian mushrooms and steeping them in soy sauce for up to two hours.

James Beard Award winner chef Alex Seidel, is one of them. “Mushrooms combined with Kikkoman Soy Sauce always deliver nice umami. Adding sesame oil and ginger with the soy takes mushrooms to a whole new level.”

Another of his many inspired creations is Beet Poke with Sesame-Panko Shrimp Balls, which features Kikkoman Gluten-Free Tamari Soy Sauce, with the shrimp rolls coated in Kikkoman Gluten-Free Panko Style Coating.

The creative spirit is also alive and well with innovators such as chef Tony Fiasche of Nduja Artisans in Chicago. He combines fish sauce, vinegar, sriracha, soy sauce, sugar and mustard to create the perfect flavour profile for his Pork Liver Mousse.

And, chef Irene Li of Mei Mei in Boston definitely steps outside the box with her soy sauce-infused Maple Soy Caramel Sauce.

“There really is no limit to what you can create,” Hunter says.

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