Friday, October 16, 2009

Imitation Soy Sauce.

How is it that soy sauce became an important ingredient in nineteenth century English cookery? Englishmen had certainly developed a taste for salty, vinegary, strongly flavoured foods over the previous few centuries – at least in part thanks to the long sojourns that many of them spent in the furthest reaches of the Empire. Long slow journeys meant that preserving these flavours for travelling purposes was also desirable. Were these the reasons for the well-known love of the English for bottled sauces (such as Worcestershire sauce, for example)?

Many of the recipes for sauces in nineteenth century English cookery books – sauces of the bottled kind, that is – include soy sauce as an ingredient. Dr. William Kitchiner in his Cook’s Oracle (1817) included it in the list of essential components of his Magazine of Taste. He included a general description of its manufacture in his book, the information apparently coming from a person who had been to the East - but the details of the process remained mysterious.

How then, was the English cook of the nineteenth century to obtain this important ingredient? The book that has been our source of fun for the last couple of days - Pharmaceutical Formulas - A Book of Useful Recipes for the Drug Trade (1898) – agreed that the details of the manufacture of soy sauce in China, India, and Japan were “practically a secret” and added that “as the product cannot be accurately imitated, we recommend only imported soy to be used in making sauces.” In spite of this advice, and no doubt in consideration of its vital role in the kitchen, the authors then went on to give recipe for:

Factitious Soy
… is made by mixing together 1 gal. of malt syrup (extract of malt 4 lbs., water to 1 gal.), 5 lbs. treacle, 4 lbs. salt, and 2 pints of mushroom juice. Heat gently in order to facilitate the mixing, set aside for a fortnight, and decant from it any deposit.

I guess the mushrooms provide the umami flavour. How convincing do you think this ‘soy’ sauce would be?

Quotation for the Day.

If I could only have one type of food with me, I would bring soy sauce. The reason being that if I have soy sauce, I can flavor a lot of things.
Martin Yan

No comments: