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Showing the world how real soy sauce is supposed to taste (bbc.com)
115 points by MiriamWeiner 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 170 comments



A lot of food is like that.

E.G: most people never tasted balsamic vinegar, only a mix of regular vinegar with a bit of grapes dust, plus some caramel and flour added to it. Real balsamic vinegar is hard to find and bloody expensive, because the process of making it reduces an entire barel of wine to a bottle.

But we don't need to go that far. I regularly meet children that have never tasted a vegetable or fruit that tasted very good.

It's not their fault they prefer the kit kat. The kit kat taste WAY better than the red plastic clown nose people told them are tomatoes.

But good fruits and vegetable taste awesome. A proper tomatoes can even be eater as-is, like an apple, with nothing on it. A quality olive oil is a feast in itself with some bread and pepper. A nice pomelo has no need to get added sugar to compensate for excess bitterness.

Generally, as more people have access to more food, we also managed to diminush the taste and nutriment it provides.

P.S: this slider format is terrible. I didn't get to the end of the article because of it.


You can find real balsamic vinegar at virtually any grocery store. Made in Italy in Modena or broader Emilia region, using Lambrusco or Trebbiano grapes, aged at least 12 years, etc. Fully, legitimately balsamic vinegar.

Because the difficulty and complexity of making balsamic vinegar really isn't that far removed from, say, bourbon. And we all know you can find real, legitimate bourbon at any shady liquor store. It's a profitable venture so a lot of it is made.

Often these conversations turn into gate keeping, where we redefine what is "real" or not to disqualify the proles.


> You can find real balsamic vinegar at virtually any grocery store. Made in Italy in Modena or broader Emilia region, using Lambrusco or Trebbiano grapes, aged at least 12 years, etc. Fully, legitimately balsamic vinegar.

It depends on what you consider real. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena allows for "grape must (even if it is not from the provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia) in percentages between 20 and 90% and wine vinegar between 10 and 80%" and "caramel is allowed, up to 2%". It must be aged in wood containers for a minimum of 60 days, not 12 years.

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar on the other hand, which GP is referring to, must be produced exclusively from grape must and aged for a minimum of 12 years. TBV is a clearly distinct product from BVM, and the EU regulates the terms as such.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balsamic_vinegar_of_Modena

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_Balsamic_Vinegar


Just to clarify, there are three categories of balsamic of varying standards, the highest of which is expensive, aged in multiple barrels, and definitely not widely available in supermarkets.

That being said, it’s a stretch to call the less expensive Balsamic of Modena “fake”, even though it is not made to the same strict standards and permits some additives.

The third category of balsamic condiments made from syrups would be fair to call “fake”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_Balsamic_Vinegar#T...


Which is the sort of market separation you see in Bourbon as well, to spin the analogy back. You can go to any cheap liquor store and find some Bourbon, but the expensive stuff is still hard to find for similar reasons (age, blends vs. single-barrel, etc). It's all still Bourbon, but there's still a quality differential between shelves.

There's also "Tennessee Whiskey" which trades age/maturity for charcoal, which should never rightly be confused with Bourbon, but you'll still see a lot of bars place Jack Daniel right next to real Bourbon or much worse consider it their well Bourbon.


This isn't quite accurate. Tennessee whiskey fully qualifies as bourbon whiskey. It's a marketing decision to call it otherwise. (Which is to say, Tennessee whiskey could be sold as bourbon, but not vice-versa. I believe the same can be said for Gin/Vodka btw.) Details:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bourbon_whiskey#Legal_requirem...

Also, in my experience, it's a lot easier to find top-grade bourbon than it is to find Traditional Balsamic Vinegar and I say that living somewhere with state-controlled ABC stores (NC).


That's fighting words about Tennessee whiskey where I'm from. ;)

Also, yes, the legal qualifier I forgot (because I just assume it, given where I'm from) was the post-Rectifier term "straight Bourbon", which has:

1) Stricter Age requirements. Which most Tennessee whiskey likely doesn't meet, though without age statements who is to say, eh? Charcoal goes a long way to cover immaturity, which is why it was in the Rectifier playbook in the first place. None of the mass labels today are probably dumb enough to sell anything Rectifier bad like 6 weeks old charcoal vodka, don't get me wrong.

2) Straight Bourbon also has very strict additive rules, which Charcoal definitely doesn't meet.


> Which most Tennessee whiskey likely doesn't meet

Actually, Tennessee whiskey is required by federal law to be straight Bourbon. The legal wording is "a straight Bourbon whisky produced in the State of Tennessee".

As of 2013, the Tennessee state legislature also requires that Tennessee whiskey be charcoal-filtered through the Lincoln County Process, with exactly one distillery grandfathered in. If charcoal didn't meet the requirements of straight Bourbon, then it would be illegal to sell anything as Tennessee whiskey because that would mean nothing could simultaneously meet the state and federal requirements, and that's obviously not the case.


Tennessee and Kentucky fighting over who makes the better whiskey is as silly as the Hatfield and McCoy war.

Just pour me a finger or two of Old Grand-Dad BiB neat, you drink what you want, and let’s call it a day. :-)


Well, a lot of the Hatfield and McCoy war did cross that border a few times, so might be related. ;)

Mmm, Bottled-in-Bond, an even stricter legal term than "Straight". I'm glad that Heaven Hill has been bringing that term back into vogue and it is getting some of its recognition and glamour back after having been demoted to the bottom shelf (only somewhat unfairly, and partly Heaven Hill's fault in the first place).


Technically speaking gin is just flavored vodka, though the flavoring mechanism is different from what most people think of as "flavored vodka" (flavored via distillation rather than addition of artificial flavor).


It’s specifically flavored with Juniper berries though right? i.e. All gin is flavored vodka but not all flavored vodka is gin.


Traditionally it’s a mix of juniper and other botanicals, but I don’t think there’s any formal definition that it has to be juniper. I doubt any producer would label a non-juniper-based gin “gin”, though; so much of the flavor that customers think of as being what makes gin gin comes from juniper.

EDIT: scratch that, looks like in both the EU and US a spirit’s “predominant flavor” must be juniper in order for it to be labeled gin. I’m not sure how/who makes that judgment, though.


I think you can be called gin if you're flavored with any botanicals, doesn't specifically have to be Juniper.


Bruni Collin's is very citrusy Spanish gin, I don't think it has juniper in it. Tastes bloody amazing.


Steaks from Mc Donalds burgers are not fake. They are pure beef.


That analogy doesn't work on any level. Nobody buys a burger, let alone from McDonalds, expecting a steak. And they are indeed all beef, while cheaper balsamic isn't all grape must.


What does that even mean?


These days, it tends to mean pink goo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanically_separated_meat


That page starts with "Not to be confused with Pink slime" and later goes on to say "mechanically separated beef is considered inedible and is prohibited for use as human food".

McDonalds doesn't use either one, and stopped using the "pink slime" stuff in 2011: https://www.cnet.com/news/pink-slime-in-burgers-mcdonalds-hi...

> "McDonald's does not use lean beef trimmings treated with ammonia, what some individuals call 'pink slime,' in our burgers, and hasn't since 2011," McDonald's website also stated.


They don't use ammonia anymore, sure. Thats hardly the only pink slime, or mear glue out there.


No one needs meat glue for hamburgers.


Your link says it has not been sold for human consumption for 15 years. And LFTB has not been used in fast food for five years: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/legal-separation/



The USDA only approved that in December.

I strongly suspect McDonalds can't change their processes and supply chain quite that quickly, nor are they likely to take the PR hit now.


DOP balsamic vinegar tastes quite different from anything you’d find on the shelf. Comes in a round bottle that no one else can use and naturally as thick as syrup. I assume this is what OP is referring to.

$100–$200 per 100ml, but very much worth a taste (if you can swing it). I know of only a single retailer who has it stocked in the Bay Area. Mostly you have to go to Modena to get it.


Although it is very, very expensive, I have to add that you don't need much of it, and it has a very long shelf life.


Yeah, ours have lasted us half a year to a year! This isn’t the kind of balsamic that you would use as an ingredient, but one that you drip judiciously on meats and cheeses. The taste is very strong.


Given the debacle of how much "Italian olive oil" isn't actually olive oil, I am dubious any product that claims to be both "Italian" and "authentic".


You can find real orange juice in any store as well.

Most of it is acide orange fruity sugar concentrate diluted in water though.


Most of it is acide orange fruity sugar concentrate diluted in water though.

The vast majority is 100% orange juice, either not from concentrate, or re-hydrated (sometimes claimed to be "artificial" because they also add orange juice zest or oils).

To go back to my original, I can find traditional balsamic in multiple major grocery stores in my city. It's very expensive for a usually tiny bottle, but if you want it it isn't terribly hard to find. You can buy it on Amazon any hour of the day. And if your standards aren't quite so high, balsamic vinegar of modena, usually with just two ingredients (grape must and white vinegar) can be found everywhere for little, tasting marginally different. Italy considers and regulates either of those as "real".

We see the same gatekeeping claims with parmigiano-reggiano: Someone avails themselves on the Kraft green "parmesan" and then tells everyone else about how they've never tasted the real thing, it's so exclusive, etc (but, of course, they have that one time). Never aware that the cheese aisle has big blocks of 100% real, certified, regulated, straight from the source Parmigiano-Reggiano. This same discussion is occurring regarding tomatoes, as if having eaten a ripe garden tomato is some exclusive experience (rather than completely banal and experienced by virtually everyone).


It's not about exclusivity, it's about awareness.

> This same discussion is occurring regarding tomatoes, as if having eaten a ripe garden tomato is some exclusive experience

Well, I ate many ripe garden tomato, and not it's not some exclusive experience. They are still not as good as they should be. They are much better, but it's still a far cry from what everybody should be able to eat.

My message is not "I'm great, I know tomatoes and you don't". My message is "it's fucked up, we managed to screw up the production of something amazing". We are trading quantity for quality, a little more every day, and now the standard people have is very low. And so they buy so-so things for a premium, and are happy with it, or chose to buy the junk food.


A tomato from your garden can only be as good as the cultivar. If you plant shitty tomatoes and grow them well, they'll still be shitty, albeit fresh, tomatoes.


What are you trying to say? That the current trendy breeds of tomatoes aren't real tomatoes? Heirloom tomato breeds are very much in vogue these days as far as I know


Not OP, and I'm slightly exaggerating for effect, but I would say that if a fresh ripe tomato is not the best tasting food you've ever eaten, then you haven't had a "real" tomato.


I ate a whole tray of tomato sandwiches with vegannaise at my sister's wedding and I've been chasing that dragon ever since


What is the point of covering the taste of tomato with bread mayo, much less the dodgy vegan approximation? If you are going that far, crispy thick-cut bacon and fresh lettuce are required.


It's not something that can be explained to the uninitiated


I grew up in NJ and grew many varieties over the years, some are crap and others are near the best tasting thing. Part of the problem is all the good varieties don't ship well so you mostly will not find them in grocery stores. The other issue is the genetics drift after some years.

Our state university managed to release the heirloom varieties that the state was famous for.[1] My favorite were Ramapos.

[1] https://breeding.rutgers.edu/tomatoes/


tell that to my previous boss from chicago, his first italian tomato left him speechless and in amazement.

and it wasn't even a biological garden tomato, it was straight off the shelf supermarket tomato.

tastes varies so much by region that for some people the proper taste is alien.

likewise the reverse apply, most italian burger joint serves dry, tasteless mincemeat on buns that couldn't hold a candle to even the basic chains in Ireland, let alone the usa (good ole ricks' how I miss thee)

it's not gatekeeping, it's facing the reality of local produce, local expertise and local competition in mainstream foods as opposed to specialties.


You can buy not-from-concentrate 100% orange juice from multiple brands in most American grocery stores. In upscale grocery stores you can often find pressed-on-site orange juice.


"not-from-concentrate" just means it was pasteurized, stored, and transported without water being removed and re-added. It still generally goes through aseptic storage for up to a year, which strips out the flavor, which is then added back in chemically, yielding a consistent per-brand flavor. https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/ask-an-academic-...

You need to go with fresh-squeezed to avoid the chemistry set.


I don't know. Florida's Natural says it contains only pasteurized orange juice. I don't know how to square that with the claim that it's full of artificial flavors.

https://www.floridasnatural.com/our-juices/original-orange-j...

Of course pasteurization changes the flavor some, but that's also why it's still safe to drink after they ship it to you and you keep it in your fridge for a month. nothing nefarious about that, nor would I call it inferior. It's a tradeoff.


scott_s is right - the "flavor packs" contain only chemicals extracted from the fruit, so they are still classified as "100% orange juice". But that doesn't mean they are "natural" or guarantee they are safe. And the companies will agree it is a tradeoff - there's no way they could meet the demand with fresh-squeezed juice. It requires a shelf-stable "solution" (pun intended).

For an extreme example (I don't think orange juice flavor packs are like this in intent or effect), apple and cherry seeds contain small amounts of amygdalin, which digestion turns into cyanide. https://sciencenotes.org/yes-apple-seeds-and-cherry-pits-con... Eating apples and cherries, even eating the occasional seed is not harmful, but processing could concentrate the amygdalin, making a very unsafe product that is still "100% apple juice".

Almonds even more so - the amygdalin is apparently an important element of the almond flavor, but some varieties of almonds have enough that they are poisonous with only a few (apparently tasty!) nuts http://articles.latimes.com/2002/feb/20/food/fo-almond20


Because the flavors are extracted from fruit. (Does it make a difference, given that the chemicals are the same? No.)


Yes you can, but that's not the majority.

And even pressed juice, something I actually buy regularly, usually tastes so-so. It's ok.

It doesn't have to be.

If I walk 15 minutes, I can get to the houses of somes friens. Once a year, for a few weaks, they get oranges in their garden.

From it you get juice that children will choose over coke, grenadine, etc.

Of course, the oranges are ugly, small, annoying to press, and appear only a short period of times in the year.

It's not something you want for industrial purpose.

When we reach industrial scale, a good deal of quality goes away. Now for a chair, I don't mind. I think society is not worst because of it.

But for food, it's a double edge sword. On one hand, we can feed more people. On the other, we have an obesity epidemic because people crave sugary junk food. And I don't think it's their fault.


You have access to all the non-concentrated orange juice you could want, but somehow it's a problem that there's from-concentrate orange juice on the shelf. You also have to have access to orange juice from your friend's tree once a year, so somehow even the non-concentrated orange juice is also a problem because something even better exists in limited quantities.

This is snobbery, plain and simple. You're couching your complaints in terms of concern for better food for everyone, but you're actually dismissive of everything that isn't a luxury. Good for you that you can get orange juice from your friend's tree and buy $250 bottles of traditional balsamic vinegar. But these are not attainable for most people, and banning "fake" balsamic and bottled orange juice wouldn't fix that.


My opinion on luxury goods is that they're to be enjoyed, not to fuel an interminable contest of one-upsmanship. If you aren't rich, you can still buy a $250 bottle of "real" Balsamic vinegar and have a tasting party with your friends. Then you can go right back to the cheap stuff that's only 80% as good, but at 5% the price, and for the rest of your life remember the better flavor whenever using the cheaper stuff, and try to trick your brain into thinking that's what you have now. Or... you can just use it one drop at a time, and make that $250 bottle last 10 years.

Scent and taste are great memory triggers. If ordinary orange juice from concentrate can remind you of that one time you had really great fresh-squeezed orange juice in season, it's almost like you can have the good stuff all year round, without paying the same costs. If you're so rich that you can constantly chase after new memories and never savor the old ones, congratulations. But don't begrudge others their shortcuts to memories of past experiences.


I went back through the entire conversation and I couldn't find anything even remotely suggesting the parent was in favour of banning anything.

All I read was a claim that industrial-scale food production often leads to an inferior product.


The industrial scale food production is what allow more people access to the food.


> You can find real balsamic vinegar at virtually any grocery store

...in a white affluent neighborhood. The real stuff is way too expensive to stock in the Sav-a-lot, to say nothing of even big chain stores. It would be like stocking $100 bottles of champagne.


This is just false, real balsamic is easy to find and I have several bottles in my cabinet. There's even specialty stores that have a huge selection. Sure, its expensive, but so is other aged and concentrated products.

I don't think the "holier than thou" attitude is really necessary, there's no point in telling people they are eating/enjoying the "wrong" foods or that your tastes are so much more sophisticated than the peons, which is what this post boils down to.

I enjoy "proper" tomatoes and tomato based dishes (especially caprese with good quality ingredients) but I would never eat a tomato like I'd eat an apple. I very much enjoy a really good quality olive oil with bread, but I would never call it a "feast," nor do I consider it a particularly healthy choice. If the nutritional value/fullness were the same, I'd still pick the kitkat over vegetables many days. I think the fake truffle oil is nasty, but I don't go around putting down people who enjoy it, which many do. I also don't drink low quality beer, but I'm not running around putting down people who do.


D.O.P. Balsamic Vinegar, the only authentic Balsamic Vinegar, goes for well over $100 for a tiny 100ml bottle, and given the multi-year, multi-barrel method of brewing each bottle, it is a miracle it can be found for even that cheap. Congratulations for having a cabinet full of it! May I come over sometime? ;)


You can find 100ml 12 year DOP Balsamic for under $100, though not by much.

You can find BVM invecchiato that is majority grape must and aged for 3+ years for significantly cheaper and is still quite good, though.


> This is just false, real balsamic is easy to find and I have several bottles in my cabinet.

There are varying types of "real", though. Length of aging matters; the longer it's aged the more evaporates off and the thicker (and tastier, IMO) it gets.

The $10/bottle watery stuff you'd use in a vinaigrette is not the same as the $30-40/bottle stuff that's almost syrupy thick. Both are real balsamic vinegar, even DOP. They're vastly different tastes, though.


No, no, I'm definitely not talking about the $10 bottle, I'm talking about the fancy artisanal stuff that's aged for years and waaaayyyy way way more expensive.


> "I would never eat a tomato like I'd eat an apple"

You should at least try it, you might like it. Personally I like a very light sprinkling of salt, but that's not necessary.


I think salt with the bigger "meatier" tomatoes is a must, however the smaller varieties are better straight.


True, I'd never put salt on a cherry tomato for instance.


> I very much enjoy a really good quality olive oil with bread, but I would never call it a "feast,

Figure of speech.

But yes, it is incredibly good. Unfortunaly, you won't find it at the grocery store, no matter what the bottle says.


Yes, I can find it in the grocery store. I also have bought it from specialty shops (which aren't exactly rare).

My grocery store also sells fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juice they juice every morning and fresh mozzarella they make every day in the store and probably some other fancy stuff I'm not aware of.

I know people who buy the low quality oil because they prefer it. My grandmother preferred corn fed beef to grass fed beef.

But its pointless, because you'll just tell me I'm wrong and your olive oil is so much better than mine because all your posts here are just "my tastes in food are so much more sophisticated than all the peons."


> I know people who buy the low quality oil because they prefer it. My grandmother preferred corn fed beef to grass fed beef.

I had a roommate in college who couldn't stand the taste of anything that wasn't aggressively processed. He would take a microwaved TV dinner over a home-cooked meal in a heartbeat.

He was also the pickiest eater I've ever met. The only thing he really liked was meat seasoned with whatever stuff Stouffer's and Hungry Man put in it (I'm guessing lots of salt). Didn't like Chinese food, or pretty much anything ethnic. Didn't like anything with sauce on it. He wouldn't eat chili dogs because he said the chili sauce was gross. Whenever we'd get him to try something new, he'd take a few bites of it, say "it's dead to me", and then push it away. At one point, we dragged him to a Chinese restaurant, he only got fried rice, and then did exactly that with the fried rice he got... and then to make a point, he stuck his chopsticks in it vertically to make it clear that it was now an offering to the dead.

He was a strange person, though I understand he's changed a lot since college.


Kinda charming that someone who hated Chinese food nevertheless knew about chopstick etiquette.


Oh, he was a total weeb. We were all weebs.

(I still am, really)


>The kit kat taste WAY better than the red plastic clown nose people told them are tomatoes.

I lived in downtown Boston and we had a roofdeck with full sunshine nearly all day. We grew tomatoes and some herbs in a planter and it was awesome. It made you realize why tomato sauce always have sugar added (to compensate for lack of ripeness and sweetness). Tomatoes became a staple and even my finicky 8 year old loved to eat them!


While I agree in principle, it’s not uncommon to add sugar to homemade tomato sauce to balance the acidity[1,2]. Also, for making sauce, good canned tomatoes (which are canned ripe) are plenty tasty.

1. https://www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/6605-using-baking-s...

2. However this is apparently controversial. https://slice.seriouseats.com/2013/03/poll-sugar-in-tomato-s...


You can throw half a carrot and some parm rind to help even out the acidity and salt without messing up the sauce. Some san marzano tomatoes simmered for 2 hours have plenty of natural sweetness.

Hell even half decent store bought sauces greatly improve with a 30 minute hard simmer.


or straight bicarbonate, that doesn't even alter the taste


The fact it's not uncommon does not make it a good thing.


[flagged]


You can add sugar in anything, to make it taste batter. That's the point of sugar.

That doesn't make the product good.

Ice cream taste great, but it's not base for a healthy society.

We need product that stand on their own if we want that children chose them over industrial junk good.

It's not being a snob. I don't think I'm a better person because I happen to live in an area where you still get good tomatoes. It's random luck.

But I do think that adding sugar in things is only legitimate when you are limited in the quality of things you get. It makes sense if the food supply is limited for example: you have to do with what you have, so let's make it taste good.

But in our western society we have an abundance of food. Our problem now is obesity. And having affordable fresh tomatoes somebody would choose over frozen lasagna would be great to have.

I say that because I honestly believed, until I became an adult, that cooked carrots tasted bad. The reason ? I only ate them at school, where it was the most horrible dish you could imagine.

Avoiding healthy products because of experience of industrial crap is pretty sad.


Adding sugar to things makes them taste sweeter. Sweeter does not always mean tasting better.

However, in cases where sugar actually makes things taste better, I have no problem using it. If I were making sauce with overly acidic tomatoes, I'd probably add a bit of sugar. I'm not interested in creating "healthy food" that tastes terrible. The insistence on making "health food" bland is a major reason people go for junk food.


It should be emphasized that "unsweet" simply means that I want to add my own sweetener. If the sugar is already added, then I rarely can add it to my taste.

Ex: Starbucks coffee can be pre-sweetened, or taken black. I'll take it black, and then head over to the side and add cream + sugar myself. Its very normal, and I think most people don't see any problem with this.

-----------

Where people get confused is... practically any situation outside of coffee. Super-bland and plain Cereal can taste better if you add some sugar on the top, or raisins yourself. Yogurt can be sugar'd up to taste.

Then you get to meats, and it gets a bit confusing. BBQ Sauce is basically Ketchup + Sugar, and adding it before cooking allows for caramelization. But you can also add BBQ Sauce afterwards and allow meats to taste sweeter.

Once you realize how adding sugar helps bland foods taste better, you'll start to add sugar yourself. And that's perfectly fine and normal! Chances are, you'll add less sugar if you do it manually, than what the stores will do.

A spoonful of sugar helps the Yogurt go down. Just because you bought plain yogurt doesn't mean you have to eat it plain. It means that you can add condiments to your preferred taste.


> But I do think that adding sugar in things is only legitimate when you are limited in the quality of things you get. It makes sense if the food supply is limited for example: you have to do with what you have, so let's make it taste good.

Walk into any michelin star restaurant, and I can guarantee you they'll be using sugar in a variety of ways. It's not because they're lacking quality ingredients.

I don't care where you buy or grow your tomatoes, if you're making a sauce or soup, it's going to require seasoning.

What about if I'm caramelizing onions for a dish? I shouldn't be using sugar, I just need better quality onions?

And using this logic I'm also wrong to salt a steak, right? I should instead find better quality meat?

We season food to make it taste better, and we also buy better quality ingredients because they taste better. And, if we want the best tasting good, we use both quality ingredients and appropriate seasoning, which may include sugar.


>What about if I'm caramelizing onions for a dish? I shouldn't be using sugar, I just need better quality onions?

Not to detract from your broader point, but no you should not be using sugar in caramelized onions. Add it at the end if you want them sweeter perhaps, but cook with it and you've got onions in caramel, not 'caramelized' onions. Which should probably be called Maillardized onions.


A fantastic post on Maillard vs carmelization for anyone curious:

https://www.reddit.com/r/Cooking/comments/4b4dw5/what_is_the...


>It's not their fault they prefer the kit kat.

Imma stop you right there. The kit kat was what sent me in search of what proper foods should taste like. I grew up in the US and as a kid I travelled to Canada with my Dad around age 10. He bought me a kit kat bar at a gas station at some point and I remember it looking much different than the ones in the US. I tasted it and it was the best kit kat I ever had in my life up until that point. It ruined me. I couldn't eat a US one again and enjoy it.

It turns out in the US we are sold a kit kat made of lies and deceit under license by Hershey. (actually it's just they use a ton more sugar and less cacao solids)

The original kit kat was made by Rowntree which was later purchased by Nestle, that's who makes them outside the US. I found out duty free sold cases of UK kit kats on the US/CA border so I've been like a kit kat missionary giving them to friends/family over the years and converting them. Shout out to Japan for making crazy flavors too.

Anyways the kit kat was my awakening to fake food products in the US and since then the curiosity stuck to just about any other kind of food. Lately I have been spreading the good news about real cinnamon since it really does have a whole depth of complexity in flavor that cassia (what all US stores sell) doesn't have.


actually it's just they use a ton more sugar and less cacao solids

Pretty much what I would have guessed, based on the food products available for sale it seems clear to me that Americans prefer their foods to contain the highest possible amounts of sugar & salt.


I thought that at first too. But the reality is (most) Americans prefer quantity over quality and it’s cheaper to cut down on cacao and fill with sugar. Less about actual flavor profile here.

A region with very different preferences on chocolate is Japan. All milk chocolate I’ve had from there is much less sweet than European or American chocolate.


> But the reality is (most) Americans prefer quantity over quality

This is incorrect. I used to manufacture hot sauce, and it's really about the cost margins calculus. The big sellers fill their products full of fluff to keep their costs down, and to squeeze out the maximum amount of profit they can while still keeping sales steady. It's what happens when food manufacture becomes a for-profit venture at industrial scales. I would argue this has led to our current health crisis and should be re-evaluated.


> this slider format is terrible. I didn't get to the end of the article because of it.

if u shrink your window thinner it goes vertical like a normal article.


I’ve been on a personal quest to taste, at least once, the real version of things. Just so that I could say I had and have a point of reference. Olive oil that was pressed in front of my eyes, honey that was extracted from a hive in front of my eyes, etc... I wish there was a service that I could buy samples of food that were guaranteed to be the real thing.


The same way you can never taste the taste of a real Camembert in the US...


The best vegetables I've ever eaten were from a street stall in Mumbai, beetroot is actually delicious (I've always disliked it). +1 on your comment about olive oil.


> A lot of food is like that.

I swear people in America have never tasted a real, juicy, succulent tomato. I know why we distribute our tomatoes the way we do, but we should stop, because they are shit. It's always these tasteless, bland red things I don't even bother to call a tomato. Every time I go to Europe, it's weird, but one of the things i absolutely crave is real tomatoes.


Huh? Anybody in America who grows tomatoes in their garden or who goes to a farmer's market where local tomatoes are in season has.

True that supermarkets don't carry them, but if you want one and live somewhere where they're grown, it's not too hard.

Also, supermarket cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes tend to be pretty good, at least compared to the larger ones. Sure they're not the same as fresh from the garden, but they're still hugely more flavorful.


> Also, supermarket cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes tend to be pretty good, at least compared to the larger ones. Sure they're not the same as fresh from the garden, but they're still hugely more flavorful.

That's what tells me the parent is right. Those are not _bad_, but they can't be considered as very good products, I swear. Sometime I wish I could just send gift tomatoes by email to random people.


Please send them to me. My "farmers markets" here are just selling the same boxes of produce the grocery store gets.


> Anybody in America who grows tomatoes in their garden or who goes to a farmer's market where local tomatoes are in season has.

The commercial varieties are also quite popular for home growing and in farmer's markets. They are still often better quality than supermarket tomatoes, but they address expectations (including of appearance) shaped by them.

Really good heirloom tomato varieties are widely available, but plenty of people have never had them anyway.


I wish, your vocabulary tells me that's not it. A tomato should not be "pretty good". It should be able to stand as the main course by taste alone.

The thing is, even in farmer's market, 9 times out of 10, the tomatoes suck. People don't believe it. I have this debate everytime, and get the same answers everytime.

The only way to end the debate is over diner, preferably in the south of france or in italia, during summer.


No, pretty much every American (in the Northeast at least) has had "real" tomatoes. Pretty much everyone with more than a couple inches of soil grows them (even people who otherwise don't garden) and the people who don't have a couple inches of soil get them from the people who do. Hell, even my greatgrandma grew them when she was alive (someone must have planted them for her...) They are also readily available from farmers markets and even the grocery store when they are in season.

>but we should stop, because they are shit

There's obviously a market for them, no matter how much purists might whine.

While nothing beats the "real thing" in certain applications where tomato is the star, the gas-ripened ones are just fine (and even preferable) for most applications (like on a burger, where tomato isn't the star of the show).


I'm pretty sure that no.

I mean, in France, we have way better average tomatoes, and a greater culture of the farmer market. Food in general actually.

Yet, I still find many people that have no idea what it's supposed to taste like.

Because you can only buy that taste great during a small part of the year, and only at some vendors.

Still this is plenty, but compared to the avalanche of products that are good enough, and marketted as incredible despite being far from the real thing, it's a small %.

Now here is the kicker, a lot of people growing the tomatoes in their garden will not have great ones either. They will have pretty good ones. But they often don't have the soil, the insects, the sun or the seed to get the result. It's not incompetence, mind you, or ignorance, or stupidity.

It's just that those things are getting rarer and rarer.

> There's obviously a market for them, no matter how much purists might whine.

It's not whining, and it's not being a purist. It's a public health issue. Having vegetable that taste better than junk food is an asset to make people eat healthier. Being "good enough" doesn't work.


French tomatoes? Oh, I'm sad that you will never know a truly good tomato.

I would tell you where you can get the only true, authentic tomatoes, but you've probably never heard of it, so I won't bother.

Plus, it really takes a refined pallet to even begin to recognize the heavenly flavors. They would be mostly lost on the French or much less, American pallet.


[flagged]


I found myself doing this with coffee. I think it's really easy for our tastebuds to get acclimated to something and once acclimated, you just can't think of anything else as worth consuming. We started buying cheap roasted bulk coffee beans from Amazon, and already I can't be bothered to drink preground coffee or anything with a medium or heavier roast anymore.

I don't feel superior about it though, I feel like my ability to enjoy coffee has been crippled.


Well, unless those tomatoes actually were that much better :) I had just that experience one summer with a particular batch of cherry tomatoes I grew. I really can't describe how much better they were than anything else I've ever tasted. They were as much like really good raspberries as they were like tomatoes. It was a true tomato epiphany to me.


Store-bought tomatoes are often flavorless and pithy to my taste, but good tomatoes are easy to get here. All you have to do is grow your own, which a lot of us do. I've grown cherry tomatoes that taste like, well... cherries. Actual little tart sweet berries that I dry out and eat like raisins. I've never had anything like it in a store or restaurant.


I've recently found that canned tomatoes can be way more flavorful than fresh ones. I've spent the last year or so experimenting with pasta sauce and tomato soup, and have recently settled on "SMT" brand san marzano crushed tomatoes as making a sauce that is 300% better than pre-mixed sauce.

Before starting to boil your noodles, chop a large onion. Get a huge frying pan (I use a deep 16" pan), because you will eventually mix the whole meal into it. Fry the onion with oil and salt. Add mushrooms or peppers if desired. Wait a bit. Push the onion to the side and position the empty side of the pan on the hottest part of the burner, and crank the heat up. Add 1 pound of ground beef (between 80% and 90% lean), and salt and pepper. Fry it until cooked 90% through. Add fresh garlic. Now dump your 18 oz can of delicious crushed tomatoes into it. Wash the can out by filling it 1/4 of the way with water and add this fluid to the pan. Add a small amount of cumin, a whole lot of basil, and a whole lot of paprika. Keep it simmering and NOW you can start cooking your noodles. When your noodes are done, after straining, dump them in the pan and mix it up.

The longer the simmer, the better the sauce, but there is diminishing marginal returns. I don't ever go to the trouble of simmering more than 20 minutes b/c I'm a busy boy, some people would consider this sacrilege. Best spaghetthi you have had in a looong time. Even better if you make the noodles from scratch, but that is a degree of dedication that I rarely use.


Tinned are often 'better' as they are tinned when ripe (or even slightly over ripe) as there arent the same concerns about transporting them.


Try sautéing your garlic with the onions once they've softened. Sixty seconds is all you need. It blooms the garlic aroma and cooks out the harshness that fresh garlic can have. I've not tried using cumin or paprika in my sauce. I'm hooked on spicing the sauce up with red pepper flakes.


Canned crushed san marzano tomatoes are kind of legendary for sauce making. Sometimes by chance, the industrial process just gets it right.


Yes, and ice cream taste amazing.

That's not the debate. With proper ingredients, you can make anything taste fantastic.


Yeah, ok, now I'm reading your other comments here, and I understand what you're talking about. You're not just talking about "good" tomatoes. You're talking about the tomatoes that are good enough to stand on their own as the centerpiece of a dish. It's hard to describe. I myself have only rarely eaten a tomato that I think qualifies. The cherry tomatoes that I keep talking about here were like a religious experience.

I think tomatoes are kind of unique in this regard, at least among common western-world fruits and vegetables. They're like mangos; the best ones are freakishly delicious, with layers of surprising flavors. It's hard to describe, but I know that's what you're talking about.


Interesting, thanks.

Cumin and paprika are unusual choices for pasta sauce. Especially combined with onions. Does it not end up tasting like chili?


Only a small amount of cumin, probably 1/2 tsp or less. If I add to much it can start to seem like chili. I go nuts with the paprika though. Adds an unctuousness. Probably add 1-2 tbsp per batch.


How do you feel about dried basil? It arouses visceral hatred in a lot of cooks, but sometimes we have no fresh, and parsley only goes so far as a replacement.

FWIW, there's nothing sacrilegious about your short simmering time. Folks who simmer their red gravy all day are making an entirely different sauce. Gravy can be magnificent stuff, but it's a different food from, say, Marcella Hazan's lighter sauces, the lightest of which is literally nothing more than tomato and butter.

I think your recipe strikes a nice balance between the two.


nate_meurer, for some reason I cannot reply to your sibling comment, but I find dried basil to be OK. Fresh basil is certainly better. When using dried, I make sure to add a lot, gotta make up for the lacking volatile flavors.


Thanks, that makes sense. I rather suspect we eat a lot more dried basil in restaurant sauces than we realize.


Well, chili does make a freakishly good pasta sauce!


Just curious here, are you from the midwest?


I live there; don't know if I could say I was "from" there.


I would not call growing "easy" :)


I'm in Colorado, and tomatoes grow like weeds here. I've had so many volunteer plants from fallen berries that I almost wouldn't have to replant. In my meager experience, soil is the most important variable. I've grown huge bumper crops one year, and then the next year only spindly pathetic vines with berries that refuse to ripen. I assume it's soil exhaustion, because compost or fertilizer fix it.

Edit:

I do have to water. If I don't water then the volunteers die, so "like weeds" isn't totally accurate. But not too far off either.


> In my meager experience, soil is the most important variable

It may very well be the reason most vegetables taste like crap today: we keep exhausting all the soils.


I do have to water

Yeah, I was gonna say...

What's your soil like? I'm a bit north of you; ours drains pretty darn poorly, which I always hear tomatoes hate


Nothing special. Suburban fill, lots of clay. We have a billion tons of clay all around Denver, and a surprising amount ends up on the surface when neighborhoods are developed. I never paid attention to drainage, but maybe I've just been lucky.


I guess it depends on where you live but in Japan tomatoes are considered a “noob” crop because they are so easy to grow


And Python is an easy language.

That doesn't mean you are going to produce a good script.


I feel the same coming from the UK. Tomatoes in France or Italy are like a whole different fruit/vegetable compared to what we (commonly) get here.


Your first sentence, of course, is not true, but I agree with the rest. Backyard gardeners all over the US grow tomatoes. And some areas close where they are farmed have really good market or farmers-market tomatoes. The good ones just don't transport well.

Same for other fragile fruits like raspberries and strawberries. Alas, just because it says "strawberry" on the package doesn't mean it has any resemblance to the real thing.


> The good ones just don't transport well

It's a very important thing, yes. People in the city are at a serious disadvantage.


Living in Germany for a semester taught me to appreciate American produce because everything in Germany was tasteless. I didn’t even like tomatoes when I went to Germany and came back craving them because I’d been eating flavorless red chunks on salads for months.


Adding to this, when I come to power the "red delicious" apple is going to be outlawed and anybody caught selling them will be put on trial for crimes against fruit.


It's amazing how many foods in their highest quality state are just two or three ingredients plus time.

Balsamic vinegar - Grapes, stored in wooden casks, allowed to age for 12-15 years, gradually moving the fluid to smaller and smaller barrels as the fluid evaporates and concentrates, until the final product fits into a small bottle.

Parmeggiano Reggiano - Unpasteurized cow's milk, with a little bit of lactic acid and rennet, packed, brined, and allowed to age for at least 12 months.

Whiskey - Distilled grain, stored in a charred oak cask and allowed to age for however many years.

Whenever we try to cheat the time factor, we inevitably introduce substitutes, additives, or agitators that result in a worse product at the trade-off of being faster to produce and more widely available.


That (JFYI) is Parmigiano Reggiano.

Vinegar (balsamic or not) does need some "mycoderma aceti":

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_of_vinegar

for many vinegar producers it is a "family treasure" often more than one century old.


I know nothing about soy sauce or brewing in general, so naturally I will now prescribe improvements to the process from my perch on HN:

Why not get rid of the ridiculously complicated (but truly beautiful) barrels, and instead use pieces of kioke wood, maybe from actual kioke barrels, in stainless vats? In other words, brew the soy sauce in stainless vats, but seed the cultures using pieces of wood that harbor the microbes. Why does the wood need to take the form of a barrel?

This would be similar to how I make traditional kefir, or how my mother makes kombucha. We just put the stuff in a glass jar (milk for kefir or tea+sugar for kombucha), and add bugs. In this process, a big piece of koike would serve the same purpose as kefir grains or a kombucha baby; it would supply the biology, and the brewing process in turn would feed the microbial colonies in the wood, the same way making kefir feeds the bugs in the kefir grains so you can keep using them indefinitely.

To anyone who actually knows about brewing: does this sound remotely plausible?


It sounds totally possible. There are a lot of home distillers that age whiskey by putting charred oak pieces in a jar of fresh whiskey. The problem with this process for aging whiskey is that it skips the evaporation that happens through the semi-porous wood and I've heard that the process of the liquid expanding and contracting through the wood also aids in a mellowing of the flavors.


What you're asking for is actually very common with wine. A lot of cheap reds and chards are made with oak chips in the stainless vats, and it's pretty controversial because it results in a different flavor profile from using oak barrels.

Edit: From Wikipedia's article on oak aging [0]:

> Oak chips have the benefit of imparting intense oak flavoring in a matter of weeks while traditional oak barrels would need a year or more to convey similar intensity. Critics claim that the oak flavoring from chips tend to be one-dimensional and skewed towards the vanilla extract with the wines still lacking some of the physical benefits that barrel oak imparts.[16] The use of oak powder is also less common than chips, although they are a very practical alternative if oak character is to be introduced during fermentation. Oak planks or staves are sometimes used, either during fermentation or aging. Wines made from these barrel alternatives typically do not age as well as wines that are matured in barrels.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oak_(wine)


>Why not get rid of the ridiculously complicated (but truly beautiful) barrels, and instead use pieces of kioke wood, maybe from actual kioke barrels, in stainless vats? In other words, brew the soy sauce in stainless vats, but seed the cultures using pieces of wood that harbor the microbes. Why does the wood need to take the form of a barrel?

I do a lot of beer homebrewing, including long term lambic-style sour beers in barrels, which actually shares a lot of similarities with shoyu brewing.

Surface ratio is the big thing here. It affects not only how much of the flavor comes from the wood itself, but also oxygen ingress, etc. With shoyu it's open air, so a bit different compared to beer or wine which is usually aged in a sealed barrel, but it does affect the total amount of oxygen in there, even with an open fermentation. Oxygen will get in through wood, it won't through steel. But in general with chips or rods/spirals, you are imparting the wood flavor very quickly in comparison to a barrel, especially an old one. Depending on the biological interactions taking place, the organisms might not be able to process all of that in the same way they would over a longer period of time - they might have different reactions when some compounds are present in higher numbers, than if it is smaller. With beer brewing, if you are using brettanomyces strains of yeast, they produce entirely different flavors if the brett is used as the primary fermenter when there's tons of sugars available, or secondary/co-pitched fermenters where saccharomyces takes care of most of the sugars.

I expect you get different flavors from new kioke barrels as well - many microorganisms can eat the sugars in wood, so you're likely to have a different bioflora profile in something fermenting in a new barrel vs. one where it's all already been digested. And there's other processes that'll bring in flavors from fresh wood vs. old. It's a lot harder to maintain something like chips or even rods or spirals over the multiple decades of use you can get out of barrels.

It's not that I don't think all of those variables are possible to account for, in the theoretical sense, but no one has so far. Cantillon, a brewery in Belgium that is quite famous for their lambic beers has a sign in their brewery that translates to "Time does not respect that which is done without it", and in my experience, it's been true so far.

(Interestingly enough, there's other parallels with Cantillon here - this story talks about the microflora living in the eaves, etc. When expanding their barrel aging program to a new facility, they went and sprayed the whole thing down with their beer to try and jumpstart the microbes being in the environment.)


Fascinating. I see what you're saying: these thick pieces of wood, perpetually saturated for decades but open to the air on one side, with the gas diffusion that entails, are possibly homes to whole ecosystems. A world of microflora in each plank, and probably very complex chemical dynamics between the wood walls and the stuff inside. I think the article said there are differences in taste even between the different barrels. Also that Kikkoman was unable to replicate the process. Makes perfect sense now.

That thing you said about the brewery trying to transfer their microbiome to a new facility -- I've heard something similar about sourdough bakeries: that each is colonized by a unique population of bugs that results in a unique character of bread. It's a wild, wonderful idea to me.

Thank you for your comment; I learn so much here.


Maybe it needs air on one side? (No knowledge here, just conjecture.)


I have a bottle of traditionally made shoyu... and it tastes like.. soy sauce. Yes it’s nicer than your average soy sauce — it has more complexity, but it’s not magically something totally different.


Yeah.

There's two things here that can be conflated. For instance, here's the ingredient list of La Choy soy sauce:

Water, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Corn Syrup, Salt, Caramel Color, Lactic Acid, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative). Contains Soy.

This is pretty clearly a "fake" soy sauce, in that it's not brewed, and there are additives made to simulate the flavor and color from a long brew. But here's the ingredients of Kikkoman, which you can find in almost any grocery store in the US:

Water, Soybeans, Wheat, Salt

That's a real brewed product. There are differences in brewing technique between a product made at scale like Kikkoman and the shoyu this article is about. But it's still fundamentally the same product. Which is not to say people shouldn't seek out traditionally brewed shoyu. But if you're using La Choy or generic store brand soy sauce, you can get a lot of the improvement in flavor you're going to get out of a traditional shoyu from just buying Kikkoman. And if you want to experiment beyond that, try Kikkoman or San-J tamari varieties.

EDIT: It's sort of like the difference between barrel aged beer/wine/spirits and aged differently. It's certainly more expensive (all else being equal) and different. It's not necessarily better.


I'll chime in too but about balsamic vinegar since someone else mentioned it. I've purchased store bought massed produced balsamic vinegar, American produced balsamic vinegar made in Napa, and DOP regulated balsamic vinegar aged 24 years from an acetaia in Modena. The difference between the first two is enormous. Massed produced balsamic vinegar is quite runny and quite "shallow" in favor. But between the latter two, the difference is much, much more subtle. For some things I honestly prefer the Whole Food purchased, produced in Napa balsamic vinegar I picked up for about $10 because I can really be a little indulgent. The Modena balsamic vinegar is almost too precious to use because the bottle is TINY and costed almost $50 (price I paid in Italy; double that if in the US). I mainly use it for special occasions or to flatter dinner guests. Also, Costco's IGP regulated balsamic is pretty comparable but I've found that their quality actually differs quite a bit between brands despite being regulated. But it's like $14 for a big bottle.


I also have some fancy balsamic aged 30+ years in this small town in Italy where I bought it at a food expo in Florence blhablhab... and it's AMAZING. And really expensive (like 80+ euros for the tiny thing). But it's also so thick you'd never use it the way you'd use most balsamics. There's a huge range in how balsamic can taste, and I believe you generally get what you pay for here.

The nice soy sauce is a bit more of diminishing returns for me personally.


Thanks for the reality check — you've just saved me $40.

For now, anyway... .


Samin Nosrat visited this soy producer as part of her Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat show... the Salt episode is dedicated to Japan, where she also tries traditional miso (which is apparently similarly complex in its original form). Very interesting to watch if you haven't.

Joining the fray of the discussions above, I think we can acknowledge both the pros and the cons of the mass-availability of things that used to be hard to come by. It's true that the $150/bottle, traditional balsamic vinegar, in its special glass bottle (aged for a minimum of 15 years), is pretty far removed from even the good balsamics that can be found in most grocery stores. If you have a chance to try it, you'll gain a deeper understanding of what made balsamic vinegar special to begin with, and a better idea of why _some_ version of it is now available to everyone.

But, as others have said, that's not to say that commonly available balsamic vinegars are uniformly _bad_, either. There certainly _are_ bad mass-produced balsamic vinegars, but also plenty of mass-produced good ones that are perfectly appropriate for cooking or dressing a salad (or even having on their own, though for me they tend to me a bit too acidic-tasting to really enjoy, whereas the $150 bottle isn't) without breaking the bank.

I think the lesson we can learn from top-quality traditional balsamic, top-quality traditional soy sauce, and the like, is that these ingredients did use to have a deeper, much more complex flavor, and that we have traded some of that away -- out of necessity -- in order to make them available to a larger number of people at lower cost. I think there's a place for both versions, but also that we should acknowledge that they are _not_ the same; they're just optimizing for different goals.


I'm not sure if I loved or hated that presentation format.

I had no idea there was anything so complicated to soy sauce! Apparently you can buy the good stuff from this article on Amazon, Yamaroku, it's $42 for 18 ozs.

So often I find when I try something that is supposed to be the BEST version of something (like wine for example) I just end of thinking "Well it's different, but I can't say it's OMG great", but I know I don't have "super taster" powers.

Can anyone comment on just how different this tastes from the usual stuff we get at the store or the usual stuff from the restaurants? Is it that much better?


$42 on Amazon is a huge ripoff. I think it's about $20 a bottle at my local Asian grocery store. I like it, but I don't have "super taster" powers either so take that for what you will.


Yes, it's better for certain end uses. For me, Yamaroku is more like a flaky finishing salt than, say, a Kosher salt (which I only use during the cooking process). I tend to use Kikkoman in most of my marinades because I can't appreciate the flavor of the shoyu as much (and also because all my [Grandmother's] recipes have been optimized for that brand).


"the BEST" version of something is probably not that much different from the merely good versions. But, for example, real olive oil is fairly different from canola oil dyed green.

I've found for me it works somewhat in reverse. The good version of something is good but not amazing- but then after I get used to the good version and I eat some of the crummy version I used to eat, I find it disgusting.


Is it just me or did the article play up the "the art of making kioke was almost lost forever" angle a little too much? The world as a whole has certainly not lost the art of making wooden fermentation barrels, as they are still widely used in many other industries, so the worst that might happen is needing to fly in some foreign coopers to examine the kioke and then start making copies using indigenous wood. I get that the Japanese might not count that as entirely authentic because they're heavy on tradition, but the results would be the same. Bacteria are the same everywhere.


Narrative is at the essence of what makes something premium, whether that narrative is true or not.

This is like the story around Yemeni coffee/Port of Mokha, Chinese companies buying defunct Japanese camera brands, etc. This happens with watch brands, clothing companies, motorcycles, etc.

That said, I'm a sucker for this bullshit and bought both of the 4-year aged sauces they sell. And yes, I bought Port of Mokha (which wasn't much different from other high-end coffee beans but at 2-3x the price) too


How was the "real" soy sauce? I'd totally buy some to try it. I definitely like soy sauce and can eat it on a lot of things.

And you're right about the narrative, but the BBC is in theory an impartial news organization, and shouldn't be playing into the narrative advertising requirements of the company being profiled. The fact is that even if the knowledge of making wooden barrels had been lost in Japan entirely, it could still be restarted by bringing in experts from abroad with no material differences in outcome. Fermenting for longer in wooden barrels definitely does affect the end result; exactly where the knowledge to build those barrels comes from so long as they're made of the same materials does not.


I won't receive it until April.


This article at least I'm sure will be good for their sales; too bad it's so hard for them to scale up production!


Yeah there were a few sources online where it would have been half the price but was out of stock.

I vastly overpaid Amazon. It's worth it to me though, because my approach to cooking is to take as few shortcuts as possible and start from the best, most-basic ingredients I can get my hands on. I tend to stick to Japanese, Korean and Mexican cuisines. Started doing my own fermentation this year with things like sauerkraut, hot sauces, miso...


Soy Source isn't from Japan. It originated from China. And if real Soy source meant it is fermented in the old fashion, non industrialise way, there are actually a few Hong Kong brands still doing it and they are very much affordable.

The best one I tasted however came from South Korea, and it isn't available in any Retail Store as the Restaurant ( Or more like a Palace ) made it themselves.


> Soy Source isn't from Japan. It originated from China.

Slide 6 of the article: Soy sauce is one of the world’s oldest condiments. It originated in China roughly 2,200 years ago and is believed to have been introduced to Japan by a Buddhist monk in the mid-13th Century. Unlike Chinese jiang, which is typically fermented in clay jars, Japanese shoyu has traditionally used wooden barrels, giving it a smoother, more aromatic taste. As a cheap and handy all-purpose seasoning, shoyu quickly became an indispensable staple in Japanese kitchens – and its role in shaping the country’s cuisine has been immense.


Funny how so often gatekeeping involves rewriting history to ignore anything older than modern nation states :)


The article is about traditional Japanese soy sauce, or shoyu.

An article about traditional Chinese soy sauce, or jiangyou, would be very different. And the products are quite different as well.

Most of the Western world is thinking of Japanese style soy sauce when they just see 'soy sauce', though, and the BBC is targeting a western audience. They do explain in the article that it was originally imported to Japan from China.


If you're in the US want to treat yourself to some good barrel aged soy sauce without any hassle, Kishibori Shoyu is on Amazon. It's at $20 for a small bottle, which is about 50-100% more than what it'll cost in a store (typical markup for Amazon specialty food products). I have seen it on store shelves in the US too.

Anyway, it's absolutely delicious and has a lot more complex flavor than your generic Kikkoman or whatever. For use only as a seasoning, cook with something cheaper. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005GQYXTC/ref=oh_aui_sear...

An article about this particular soy sauce: https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/this-is-the-best-so...


Shouldn't it be possible to store and grow the bacteria at an industrial scale, just like large breweries grow and closely guard their secret yeast strands? If the wood is an essential part, why not line the steel vats with cedar?


Most breweries maintain a couple of different yeast cultures, each of which is a single strain of saccharomyces. Every organism in each sample is genetically identical, to the extent that's possible.

This is much more akin to sour breweries. They will have some samples, and they may even buy different fermenting organisms from yeast companies, but part of their appeal is the spontaneity and variety that comes from a mixed-culture fermentation. These kioke look like open-top foeders. Coolships are another tool used for wild and spontaneous fermentations.

Adding wood to steel vats might be possible, but you have to worry about the surface area to volume ratio.


The article says Kikkoman has tried to replicate his process but wasn't able to.


This little national geographic video is cool too - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMmyamL4VGw 'A 750-Year-Old Secret: See How Soy Sauce Is Still Made Today'


Most wasabi sold in the U.S. is green-dyed horseradish.


Yeah, because the real deal costs $130 per pound: https://firstwefeast.com/eat/2014/09/real-wasabi-is-one-of-t...


Wasabi is expensive. Horseradish is cheap. Dying horesradish green is a tacky fraud.


It's apparently not that hard to grow in a hydroponic setup, it needs flowing water though. wonder why no one has done that.


Everything I've heard is that it's incredibly difficult to grow commercially. That said, there's a company in Half Moon Bay that's doing it. I can't say I've tried enough authentic Japanese wasabi to make a reasonable comparison with the locally grown version, but I can say that both are worlds better than the green goop you'll find in almost all Japanese restaurants. I know people who can't handle the spice level of "normal" wasabi but have no problem with the real stuff - there's more flavor there than just "spicy", although it still carries a fair amount of heat. The grated version also has both texture and aromatics that you won't get in wasabi from a tube.


At $100/lb I think you could probbably do quite well doing it in small batches at home as a hobby.


I think the Japanese term for horseradish literally translates as "western wasabi"


When I click through, the actual article title is "Is Japan losing its umami?"

I think that's probably the better title to use.

When I clicked through to the posted title "Showing the world how real soy sauce is supposed to taste", I was fully expecting the article to be about soy sauce in China, not in Japan.


This educational programme from Japan shows the whole process https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmUoC10X_A0 understanding a little Japanese helps, but is not required.


theres an anime called moyashimon - tales of agriculture that does a nice job of teaching you all about the fermented foods mostly japanese but some others as well. Its not a serious show by any means but it was interesting nonetheless!


I remember being surprised when I discovered that most truffle oil is not made from truffles. Real truffle oil (e.g. olive oil infused with actual truffles) is a bit harder to find.


funny instead how in the west we come full circle to use yeast to create that taste, so that the product label can claim 'no glutammate added'

this italian video goes to some length into it, and it has english subs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-HDL2g4HYk


Now I really want to try some traditionally brewed soy sauce.


One thing I don’t understand: there is a market for high-end soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.

Certain people will pay for food sold in the right context. Why is it so difficult for these producers to find that market?


It's not hard at all. That market is high end restaurants. Especially when I was in fine dining, we'd have farmers, importers and foragers showing up at the back door all the time with various vegetables, bottles of oils and vinegars, truffles, vanilla beans, etc... The market for individuals trying to buy these things is very small, but for restaurants, just look up rankings in a guide and show up at the top restaurants.


> Why is it so difficult for these producers to find that market?

Is it? I think they are, what makes you say otherwise?




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