History of Soy Sauce
In both East and West, people have searched for centuries for better ways to preserve foods, discovering through experience that the use of salt not only preserves, but improves flavor. This is because proteins contained in food are broken down by microorganisms into taste-enhancing umami components.
In ancient China, preserved foods and their seasonings were known as jiang—perhaps the forerunner to what we now know as soy sauce. Different types of jiang were produced from meat, seafood, vegetables and grain. Of these ingredients, grain was the most easily available and manageable, and so the jiang made from soybeans and wheat in particular developed more rapidly. The process of making this “grain jiang” eventually spread from China into Japan and other neighboring countries. Today’s soy sauce is said to originate from this seasoning.
After being introduced into Japan, the development and processing of jiang took a distinctive turn; by the middle of the seventeenth century, the process of producing naturally brewed soy sauce had been established here, and began to spread throughout the country.