The soy story continues

The small soy bean seeds are ready for service. A cup full of seeds have been set aside for planting in the Food Garden of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. The remainder I brought home with the instructions to try to make either soy sauce or tofu as an experiment.

Generally it was agreed that everyone would be happy to taste any soy sauce but a certain reluctance was shown by my fellow volunteers about eating any tofu I might create.

‘How will you make it?’, I was asked.  ‘Haven’t a clue,’ I responded. ‘Google will tell me what to do.’ ‘But how long will it take to make?’ ‘Don’t know; Google will give me answers’. Will you need to soak or boil them?’ ‘Beats me. More research required.’

I love using soy sauce in my cooking, in salad dressings, and as a salty splash on some meals after cooking. Choosing to make soy sauce was my first thought. Besides, despite taking days to pod the soy beans, there weren’t many seeds and, I suspect, if I made tofu I might achieve only a very small piece by the end of the process (whatever that process might be).

If you are not familiar with Soy sauce, it is a thin, liquid, Asian condiment normally made from fermented soybeans. Specific strains of fungus are grown on soybeans, and then the mixture of fermented soybeans is allowed to continue to ferment within a salt brine.

Have you made soy sauce from scratch? Perhaps like me you have planned to and then research led to challenges. In my case, I found mountains I didn’t want to climb.

To make soy sauce, 5 main ingredients are required: soybeans, wheat, water, salt and yeast. Fermentation is the key. Soy sauce is made by two methods: the traditional brewing method, or fermentation, and the non-brewed method, or chemical-hydroxylation. The fermentation method takes up to six months to complete.

To start the fermentation process it is essential to use a koji starter culture. This starter is made from spores of Aspergillus oryzae, a mould. This fungus is used to inoculate steamed soy beans which are then fermented. The task is to sprinkle the ‘koji starter’ on the wheat and soy dough according to package instructions and combine. This is an important step while making homemade soy sauce as koji gives it a distinct flavour.

I found no supplier of this starter in Tasmania and to purchase from afar, before the costs of postage and delivery, the cost would be around $30. I think I speak for my fellow Food Garden volunteers when I say we like to experiment and do things with materials and produce to hand so that the thought of spending money to make a new concoction isn’t on the radar.

Thinking laterally I considered a substitute for the koji starter culture might be possible. I learnt Unfortunately, there is no alternative to a Koji starter to kickstart fermentation for soy sauce. Koji is a mould, a very specific kind, and provides a flavour and a chemical conversion process (breaks down proteins and turns attaches to sugars) where after then you get other fermentation processes going once you’ve added a brine.

Even if I had the starter, I would need a jar with an airlock, something I don’t have. Enough is enough. Tofu it is. Now onto more research…

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4 Responses to The soy story continues

  1. Janet says:

    Ooh, make edamame! So easy (needs the pods though, so maybe for next batch). So easy, no special ingredients. Yum.


  2. Alexandra Farrow says:

    At least we now know what we are eating when we next splash soy sauce onto our food to give it that delicious flavour.


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