Thursday, 7 June 2012

Traditional Soya Sauce - 1 June 2012

During our recent trip to Penang, we spotted a soya sauce home-based factory in Nibong Tebal, about 40km from Penang. This was one of the few remaining soya sauce factories making the soya sauce in a traditional way. 

The soya sauce factory was run by Mr Loh, the trade which was started by his father. Unfortunately, this is a dying and fast disappearing trade... 

This factory produces the "Flower" brand soya sauce. But there's hardly any information of the brand in the internet. The Loh family does not distribute their products to the wholesalers but depend on their long-time and regular customers, who are familiar with their products, to purchase them directly from their factory. Besides soya sauce, they also produce chilli and tomato sauce, thick soya sauce and alkaline water for commercial use.

Jin walking by vats of fermenting soya made in a traditional method in the large courtyard. The soya beans were fermented in large vats under the sun and covered up with lids at night until they "broke down" and brewed to become soya sauce. Soya sauce is an essential savoury flavour in our Asian cuisine but naturally made soya sauce could take months of hard work and patience to produce.

The process began with boiling the Canadian soya beans  in a huge custom-made stainless steel wok, after which they are drained and mixed with plain flour. They are still using the firewood to cook the beans!!!

The cooked beans are dried on flat bamboo trays for up to a week. They are then placed in the vats filled with the prepared brine. The fermentation process starts by exposing the beans to the sun daily for up to 6 months, thus turning from light yellow to the fragrant dark liquid.

The traditional method is a long, tedious process which depends on the weather. The secret in good soya sauce is in the salinity of the brine. And of course the knowledge that comes with years of experience.

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