Let’s Talk Food: A visit to the Kikkoman plant in Noda, Japan

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON The sign at the front of the Kikkoman plant in Noda, Japan.

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Large vats of Kikkoman soy sauce can be seen at the plant in Noda, Japan.

When we think about a Japanese condiment familiar to the world, we think about soy sauce.

Soy sauce originated from a fermented food called “sho,” or “jiang” in Chinese, which is 3,000 years old.

ADVERTISING


Manufacturing of shoyu began in Noda City, Chiba Prefecture, in 1917, with a combination of eight family-owned businesses. Some of these families, the Mogi and Takanashi families, began producing soy sauce in 1603.

Noda was chosen because of its perfect climate. The Edo and Tone rivers make for easy access to soybeans, wheat and salt, as well as for the shipping to Edo (Tokyo) in half a day. All these conditions made Noda the “City of Soy Sauce.”

Kikkoman is headquartered in Noda. “Kikko” means tortoise shell in Japanese, and “man” means 10,000. The name was chosen first as a trademark and later as a company name, which symbolized longevity as, according to folklore, a tortoise lives for 10,000 years.

The logo, which is known throughout the world, is the emblem of its founder, a combination of eight family-owned businesses.

On a recent trip to Tokyo with our son, Reid, who made reservations for the tour; my sister, Myra; and her husband, James, we took the Tobu Urban Park Line to Noda-shi ( “shi” means city). From the train station, we walked three minutes to the entrance to the Kikkoman gate.

The tour is free, but you must make reservations by calling 04-7123-5136.

Ingredients needed to make soy sauce are soybeans, (for proteins), wheat (for carbohydrates and sweetness), salt (to control the propagation of bacteria during the fermentation process) and Kikkoman aspergillus (a type of fungus to propagate koji mold). The soybeans are steamed and the wheat is roasted. Aspergillus is added to the steamed soy beans and the roasted and cracked wheat, then blended to create the starter mix. Fermentation takes place from six months to one year. The liquid produced by mixing the shoyu koji with salt water is called “moromi.” FIlter cloths are in the vats of “moromi” and when the soy sauce is ready, the cloths are squeezed, pressing out the liquid.

In the 17th century, soy sauce was produced completely by hand. Today, everything is automated using cutting-edge technology; however, the core brewing process has not changed for centuries — the traditional natural process, called “honjozo,” with the basic ingredients used.

During the tour, we were able to taste soy sauce soft-serve ice cream as well as the many types of shoyu available. The five varieties of soy sauce include koikuchi, usukuchi, tamari, shiro and saishikomi. The unpasteurized soy sauce has a light color with a smooth taste, but cannot be exported. The pasteurized soy sauce has a deep color with a full aroma and flavor. Pasteurization halts the activity of lactic acid bacteria and yeast left on the raw soy sauce.

Here are some recipes from Kikkoman:

Stir-Fried Cantonese Chicken

Serves: 4

1/2 pound chicken breast

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 tablespoons ginger, sliced into very fine julienne

2 tablespoons Kikkoman soy sauce

Pinch of black pepper

2 tablespoons water

Cut chicken into thin strips and tenderize a little with a mallet or blunt edge of a cleaver. Rub with sesame oil and set aside for 15 minutes.

Heat oil and fry garlic and ginger until light brown and add chicken. Stir for 2 minutes and add all seasonings, except water.

Stir for 1 minute to allow seasonings to be thoroughly absorbed by chicken.

Add water and stir well for 2 minutes

Kikkoman Soy Sauce Glazed Crunchy Chickpeas

Makes: 3 servings

2 tablespoons Kikkoman Less Sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, honey and garlic powder. Whisk until well combined. Add the chickpeas to the bowl and stir until the chickpeas are coated with the soy sauce mixture. Drizzle the vegetable oil on a baking sheet and use a paper towel to coat the entire baking sheet (you can also use cooking spray).

Distribute the chickpeas on the baking sheet and lay flat. Cook for 40 minutes, turning the chickpeas every 15 minutes.

— Recipe by Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD

Sweet Teriyaki Corn

Serves: 8-10

1/4 cup butter, melted

3 tablespoons Kikkoman Teriyaki Takumi, original

5 fresh ears of corn, husked and cut in half

In a bowl, thoroughly blend together butter and teriyaki sauce with wire whisk.

Grill or broil corn 5 to 6 inches from heat source 10-15 minutes or until desired doneness, turning over occasionally. Do not overcook.

Remove corn to a large platter and immediately brush generously with teriyaki-butter mixture.

ADVERTISING


Note: Corn also can be boiled or microwaved 3 to 6 minutes instead. Remove corn from water and let excess water drip off before brushing with teriyaki-butter mixture.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.