The assertion that Japan has a robust sauce culture may sound odd to some. True, the ingredients that are used are not the creams and cheeses that are the mainstay of Western sauce tradition, but nonetheless, Japan has established many sauces that take advantage of the ingredients that are found in the country, as well as popular imports. We take a look at several examples in what follows.
History of Worcester Sauce
It was during the Meiji Restoration that worcester sauce was first introduced to Japan. In the cookbook "Seiyo Ryori Shinan" (Western Cooking Guide) written in 1872, worcester sauce is described as "similar to soy sauce".
Worcestershire sauce originated in England and was imported to Japan in 1903. Japan also started manufacturing worcestershire sauce, which is what we find in Japan today. Although inspired by the original, the Japanese version evolved in taste and use from the British creation.
The main difference between the Japanese and the British Worcestershire sauces can be narrowed down to the presence or absence of anchovies. Also, the British often use worcestershire sauce as an accent to the food. In contrast, the Japanese use their sauce as a generous topping sauce for food.
During the Showa era (1926-1989), there was a popular dish called Ichisen Yoshoku, which is the prototype of the popular Japanese dish, Okonomiyaki, in which a batter is cooked with various vegetables and meats, and then topped with worcestershire sauce. In the Showa era, anything with sauce on it was thought of as Western food.
As the use of sauces became more popular, their variety also increased. In addition to Japanese worcestershire sauce, which is light and salty, there is the chuno sauce, which is medium in thickness and saltiness, and a heavy sauce, which is thick and fruity. These sauces are used in different ways depending on the cuisine and are widely used in Japan today.
In addition, various sauces such as tomato ketchup, tomato sauce, chili sauce, mayonnaise, dressings, meat sauce, white sauce, steak sauce, Chinese sauces, yakiniku (grilled meat) sauce, yakitori (grilled chicken) sauce, among others, can be seen on Japanese tables nation-wide.
The taste of sauces varies from region to region, with Kanto sauces being sweeter and Kansai sauces being more sour.
A Variety of Japanese Sauces
Japanese Worcestershire sauce is made by adding spices to vegetables and fruits that have gone through a long maturation process. An important step is the fine pureeing of the ingredients, so the resulting sauce is low in viscosity and smooth. The sauce is characterized by the spicy tang from the spices. When used in cooking, the spiciness and acidity of the sauce give the dish a rich and flavorful taste.
Worcestershire sauce can be used in a variety of standard dishes like yakisoba, hamburgers, fried eggs and okonomiyaki. It is especially recommended with noodles. A small amount of Worcestershire sauce can be added to noodle sauces to impart a rich flavor.
Chuno sauce is a sauce with a moderate thickness that is heavier than Worcester sauce: the name "chuno sauce" literally means "moderately thick". It is characterized by having both a salty taste and a soft sweet taste. It is also used for seasoning stews and meats. Chuno sauces are spicy and mild, and are recommended for both heavy and light dishes like ginger-yaki and kabayaki.
This sauce is heavy, with a rich sweet and soft taste. It is also known as tonkatsu sauce and "fruit sauce" because of the many fruits included in the pureeing process.
This heavy sauce is recommended on dishes with a stronger, heavier taste.
It is also used as that secret ingredient that enhances the depth of taste of curries and stews.
Oyster sauce is made by fermenting salted oysters and using the concentrated supernatant liquid. It originated in the Cantonese province of China, and was later introduced to Japan.
Commercially available oyster sauces are made by extracting the broth from oysters and seasoning it with sugar, salt, starch, acidifiers, and other ingredients. Worcestershire sauce, which is full of the flavor and richness of oysters, gives dishes a deeper and more authentic taste when used. It is perfect for stir-fried rice and other Chinese dishes.
Yakisoba sauce is the main taste contributor in yakisoba and is made by adding umami inducing ingredients to Worcester sauce. Yakisoba sauce originated in Japan, making it a rare domestically developed sauce. The noodles used for yakisoba are not Japanese buckwheat noodles, but Chinese noodles, which are made from wheat flour. In Japan, yakisoba is not only found on the menu of restaurants, but is also made at home or at street stalls at fairs.
Common with all okonomiyaki sauce types is a less acidic and more salty sauce when compared with other similar sauces. Okonomi sauce is also a Worcestershire sauce adaptation with added ingredients to enhance umami. As okonomiyaki became a national dish in Japan, many manufacturers began to sell okonomiyaki sauce. Part of the reason why okonomiyaki sauce was developed was as a solution to the watery worcester sauce which would run down the hot plate.
Yakiniku sauce is a dip for meat when eating yakiniku. The most common type of yakiniku sauce is soy sauce based. Many of them are available in three levels of spiciness: sweet, medium spicy, and spicy.
In Korea, where yakiniku is said to have originated, the meat is marinated in the sauce the day before it is to be eaten, so it is already seasoned when cooked. In Japan, on the other hand, meat is often dipped in sauce before eating, such as shabu-shabu and sukiyaki. Yakiniku sauce was created to suit this type of Japanese food culture. It was in 1965 that yakiniku sauce was sold in Japan in earnest. It is said that "Stamina Gen Tare" , released by the Kamikita Agricultural Processing Cooperative, was the origin of yakiniku sauce.
Later, Ebara Foods launched "Ebara Yakiniku no Tare", which quickly became popular in Japan, making it possible for people to enjoy the flavors of yakiniku at home. Ebara Yakiniku no Tare has also been sold in Korea, the home of Yakiniku, and has become very popular.
Teriyaki sauce, which originated in Japan, is now very popular in the United States and other countries.
It is characterized by the savory taste of soy sauce and the thick sweetness of a seasoning called mirin. It is an indispensable Japanese flavor for meat and fish dishes.
Richly Flavored Japanese Sauces
We took a quick tour of the history of sauces in Japan and the Japanese sauce culture. This includes worcester sauce, which was an important import in the development of Japan's sauce culture.