There are two sauces that go on our table with virtually every meal. One is the ubiquitous chili sauce Sriracha and this is the other one. There are several versions or formulations of concentrated soy, depending on the country of origin. The one the we make for our use is the Japanese variety. It is rich and complex in flavor, slightly smoky, and a little bit bitter. It lacks the garlic and chili overtones of its Korean cousin and is not as astoundingly sweet as the Indonesian types.
We use this sauce as a standard table-top condiment to accent the flavor of meat, rice, and tofu dishes. It is richly flavored enough to transform simple ingredients into a meal. For example, eating a slab of plain tofu is simply not very exciting; drizzle this stuff over the top, add some scallions and nuts to garnish and you have created something worthy of stuffing in your face. Good additions to round out the experience are a bowl of soup and a small bowl of rice. Very tasty and just right for a fast lunch if you are pressed for time. If you are trying to clean up or simplify your diet, this sauce is helpful because it provides enough flavor to make even bark dust interesting.
There is not much to screw up in preparing the sauce. While the ingredients may seem exotic to some, they are commonly available at Asian groceries. I discuss kombu seaweed and kastuo-bushi (dried bonito) in more detail in my post about Making Dashi. There are a couple of pieces of advice I would offer in making this sauce: 1) Make sure you get a good soak on the kombu and mushrooms. A nice overnight soak will extract the deep, rich flavors that you are looking for; 2) Don’t chicken out on reducing the sauce. You have to get it reduced enough for the sugars to slightly caramelize. When the sauce begins to coat the back of the spoon, go a little longer; 3) Don’t leave the fish in too long. Two to three minutes is plenty. For those that think they want more fish flavor, more fish rather than a longer soak is better route.
I hope you enjoy this sauce. Try it. When I first made it, I was delighted with the flavor, which was very unlike my preconceived notion of what it would taste like when complete. Oh, get a nice bottle for your sauce; they are cheap.
- ~20 to 30 grams kombu (dried kelp), cut into 2 inch squares
- 2 to 3 large dried shitake mushrooms, cut into pieces
- 1⅓ cup soy sauce
- ⅔ cup sake
- ⅓ cup water
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 4 Tbs. mirin
- ¾ to 1 cup lightly packed katsuo-bushi (dried shaved bonito)
- Place kombu, mushroom, soy sauce, water, and sake in a container. Set aside to soak for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
- Place mixture in small to medium sauce pan, add the mirin and sugar, and bring to boil boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes to reduce. Mixture is properly reduced when it is slightly syrupy and coats the back of a spoon.
- Remove from heat and add the katsuo-bushi. Let stand for only 2 to 3 minutes to soften fish. Longer soaking times will make the sauce bitter.
- Using muslin or a fine mesh strainer, filter the sauce from the solids. Press additional fluid from the solids, pour into a bottle, let cool and seal.