Last Updated on June 3, 2023
If you are looking for another type of soy sauce but not tamari or ponzu, Smoked Soy Sauce (Kunsei Shoyu) may be the next item that’s missing in your vegan Japanese pantry! There are a couple of different types of soy sauce you may want to have in your vegan Japanese pantry such as multipurpose soy sauce, light soy sauce, tamari, ponzu and smoked soy sauce. In this post, the highlight is on the smoked soy sauce sauce that you can use to add an elevated twist to your Japanese creations!
The Soy Sauce Family
There are several types of soy sauce products that you can use for different purposes. Some of the examples are:
- Soy sauce
- Light soy sauce
- Smoked soy sauce
- White soy sauce
- White tamari (technically not “soy” sauce but similar)
Now, let’s talk about smoked soy sauce!
What’s Smoked Soy Sauce?
Smoked Soy Sauce is, as the name says it all, is an smoked version of regular soy sauce. As you may know, soy sauce is aged & fermented liquid condiment made from soybeans that’s commonly used in Japanese cuisine as well as many Asian countries.
While smoked soy sauce may not be an everyday multipurpose soy sauce, it’s definitely useful to have in your vegan Japanese pantry when you want to add an interesting smoky touch to your dishes. In Japanese, it’s called “kunsei shoyu [燻製醤油]” or “sumoku shoyu [スモーク醤油.] ”
Just like regular soy sauce the color of smoked soy sauce is rich and dark. What distinguishes the smoked soy sauce from regular soy sauce are certainly the smoky aroma and the taste! Smoked soy sauce is typically smoked with cherry wood.
The basic ingredients of smoked soy sauce are:
- Koji (aspergillus oryzae)
- Cherry wood smoke
*Please note that the actual ingredients on the label may vary.
You could actually make this at home if you enjoy cooking experiments! Technically, you just have to smoke regular soy sauce to add the smoky aroma in the same way as making smoked cheese. For most of us, it’s much easier if you buy it from a store.
How is bottled smoked soy sauce made? Basically, it’s the same way as regular soy sauce but the only difference is it’s smoked before bottling. Here is the brief process of the making of smoked soy sauce.
- Soybeans are soaked and steamed
- #1 is mixed with crushed dry-roasted wheat and koji mold (aspergillus oryzae)
- Salted water is added to #2 which becomes unrefined soy sauce called moromi then aged/fermented
- Pressed and heated for pasteurization then filtered or just filtered without pasteurization *
- Smoked and bottled
The actual process may vary depending on the types of smoked soy sauce or products.
* Typically, soy sauce is heated through to pasteurize after the being pressed except for “pure soy sauce”, “fresh soy sauce” or “mana-shoyu.” Those are the types of soy sauce with no heat applied. In other words, the soy sauce is “alive” to retain more aroma and umami, enzymes, and the pure taste of soy sauce. For smoked soy sauce, chances are it’s made with pasteurized soy sauce because there’s no reason for it to have the “pure” and “fresh” element since it will be overshadowed by the smoke.
When you taste smoked soy sauce by itself, the first thing you will notice is definitely the smokiness with the same familiar taste of soy sauce.
I wrote this on the soy sauce post but if you think all soy sauce taste the same, you may be missing out on something good! The same goes for smoked soy sauce. Unlike regular soy sauce, you may not have 10 different options to compare the taste however, you’ll notice the difference even after trying a few different ones.
I’ve tried three different bottles of smoked soy sauce so far and I can attest that they all taste slightly different from one another!
Ways to Use
Since smoked soy sauce is not a multipurpose soy sauce, you may want to use it for particular purposes mainly as a finishing sauce or dipping sauce.
Here are some examples of how I enjoy smoked soy sauce. I drizzle smoked soy sauce over;
- Avocado slices (on top of Japanese rice like the photo below)—my go-to breakfast. So good with smoked soy sauce!
- Baked or grilled tofu
- Any grilled veggies
- Pasta dishes
- Vegan cheese (such as artisanal cashew cheese wheel)
I’m sure there are other ways to enjoy smoked soy sauce that, I suggest to discover on your own.
If you aren’t sure what to do with it, my suggestion would be to substitute your current favorite finishing soy sauce or dipping soy sauce to smoke soy sauce. It’s a similar idea as when using some finishing salt or adding a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil.
How to Store
Generally, soy sauce is high in sodium so it has a pretty long shelf life. That said, oxidization will slowly change the flavor profile. Just like any other food, it’s best to consume as soon as possible once it’s open.
For smoked soy sauce, once you open it, you may notice the smokiness fades away little by little overtime so enjoy it’s while it’s still fresh!
Here is how I store my smoked soy sauce.
- Keep an unopen bottle in a dark place to avoid direct sunlight.
- Once it’s open, always cap it tightly and store in the fridge.
Where to Buy
You may not find smoked soy sauce at your regular grocery stores or even at Asian grocery stores. You have better chances finding one at online specialty grocery stores.
As mentioned before, I’ll definitely recommend trying different products to taste the difference and to find your favorite! I personally recommend buying organic smoked soy sauce to avoid GMO. Another way to avoid GMO smoked soy sauce is to look for the one made with Japan grown soybeans. Domestic Japanese soybean crops are all non-GMO.
My recommendations are listed below (prices may be subject to change):
Smoked Soy Sauce from The Japanese Pantry
This one is one of my favorites. It’s not organic however, it’s made with Japan grown soybeans = non-GMO) and tastes fantastic and has a pleasantly intense smokiness! It comes in a user-friendly bottle which once you use it, you’ll know what I’m talking about! No dripping at all and you can squeeze out as much/little as you like with no fuss!
The price is $17.75/210 ml (7.10 oz) (about $2.50/per oz)
Organic Smoked Marudaizu (Whole Soybean) Soy Sauce from Umami Insider
This is another one of my favorites and it’s organic (made with Japan grown organic soybeans) and tastes fantastic! It tastes similar to the one above. This was my first smoked soy sauce I’ve ever purchased here in the US and it still stands out as one of my favorites!
The price is $10.90/5.33 oz (about $2.05/per oz)
Organic Smoked Shoyu from Gold Mine Natural Foods
This smoked soy sauce is organic and it comes in a glass bottle while the other two are in a plastic bottle. To me, this one tastes less smokier than the other two. It still taste pretty good.
The price is $11.99/5.10 oz (about $2.35/per oz)
I recommend trying “real” Japanese smoked soy sauce for you to stock up your authentic vegan Japanese pantry. This is a general tip for shopping Japanese groceries or pantry items which is to get the products that labels as “Product of Japan” on the back of the package. Often times, what appears to be a “Japanese” product is actually produced in another country. Always check the label!
Let me know in the comment sections below if you have any questions or other recommendations!