People in both the Eastern and Western worlds have searched for centuries to find better ways to preserve foods; discovering through experience that the use of salt not only preserves, but improves flavour.
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, so the jiang made from soybeans and wheat developed more rapidly. The process of making this “grain jiang” eventually spread from China into Japan and other neighbouring 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.