Handmade Soy Sauce by Ohara Hisakichi

I am not a fan of soy sauce.  It overpowers most every food it’s
splashed on and it salts up the pot.  But when I saw an ad for a fancy
soy sauce touted as good enough to drink, I ordered a bottle despite my
reservations.  At $30 a quart it had to be good and, for sure, better
than Kikkoman, the default soy sauce on this side of the Pacific Ocean.

It showed up on the door step, via UPS, labeled fancy, wrapped fancy, wrapped more fancy again and then packed in a large form-fitted Styrofoam box, as only the Japanese can do. We opened the beautiful bottle that evening and poured out a tasting sample along with a like sample of Kikkoman. Big difference.  Hisakichi San’s soy sauce is lighter in color with an almost pearlescent luster to it, compared to the black Kikkoman.
It tasted good enough to lick the spoon.  We were impressed but then wondered how to better test its merits.  Along came Chinese New Years and an invitation to a party with some old Navy friends. I mentioned the soy sauce to our hostess, whose Chinese home cooking skills are legendary.
She said that fancy soy sauce is used for dipping and not for cooking.  “Mix it up with a little sesame oil.”  I countered that I hated the taste of sesame oil even more than I disliked soy sauce.  “Oh, then you are using too much of it. Use sesame oil in a dipping sauce for its bouquet not for its taste—just a little bit—everyone knows that,” said she.

“I didn’t know that,” I replied.

So, later at home I set up a comparison of the two soy sauces using
traditional dipping sauce ingredients in proportions consistent with my
new found knowledge.  Nine parts soy sauce and one part sesame oil
seemed to be about right.

Here is the tasting sample:

See abbreviations, if needed

·  1 T       soy sauce (9 parts)

·  1/3 t     sesame oil  (1 part)

·  1 t        seasoned rice vinegar (3 parts)

Note:  I left out adding shards of spring onions or other
such “chop ups” so as not to complicate the task at hand.

Comparing Hisakichi dipping sauce in one ramekin with Kikkoman dipping
sauce in another, the tasting was very revealing.

Ohara Hisakichi Shouten Soy Sauce Dipping Sauce Kikkoman Soy Sauce Dipping Sauce
Shiny, shimmering black. Translucent Dull black.  Opaque
Less salty (balanced) Very salty (overwhelming)
Complex tastes and after-tastes, like a well-aged balsamic vinegar Soy/salt taste throughout, cloying after taste
Drinkable by the spoonful No way

As The Little Woman says: “You get what you pay for.” This is indeed
a fine product, expensive but a quart will last a long time.  A Hisakichi
dipping sauce will complement our Shabu Shabu
and our Shrimp/Veggie Tempura.  Serve also with crudités.

You will find Ohara Hisakichi Shouten Soy Sauce only at gratefulpalate.com;
an interesting and entertaining high-end food source Web site.

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