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Help? What is Kikkoman?

I'm new here and a friend of mine just introduced me to Kikkoman sauces. I had never heard of them before. Can anyone tell me a little about this brand? Is it old? Trustworthy? Is it an Asian brand? Anything else I should know? Thanks so much!

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  1. Kikkoman is a producer of Asian sauces such as soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, mirin. It is a Japanese company so tends toward seasonings and condiments from that cuisine. It is perfectly respectable quality and can be found in probably any large or small grocery store in the United States.

    1. Kikkoman was possibly the first and then only soy sauce available in California (from Japanese grocers) in the 1930s onward in California. My mother remembered being taunted by non-Asian Americans that she was eating "bug juice".

      1. kikkoman is old school and reliable because it is usually the only brand of asian sauces at some grocery stores (although this is definately starting to change).

        Growing up in a half asian family, my mother used kikkoman when we lived in the boondocks for soy sauce. Now she uses $50/gallon homemade stuff which is way better. If you are starting out cooking asian food then I would suggest the kikkoman and than branching out from there starting with different sauces from different asian countries, because kikkoman is japanese

        1. Kikkoman
          From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
          Kikkoman Corporation (キッコーマン株式会社, Kikkōman Kabushiki-gaisha?) (TYO: 2801 ) is an international company based in Japan.

          Founded in 1917, it is based in Noda, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. It is a combination of 8 family-owned businesses founded as early as 1630 by the Mogi family.

          Its main products and services include soy sauce, food seasoning and flavoring, Mirin, shōchū, and sake, Juice and other beverages, pharmaceuticals, and restaurant management services.

          1. Kikkoman is a huge, global Japanese company that has been around forever. I'm surprised you haven't run into it before because it is the only decent brand available in much of North America.

            They make a wide range of soy sauce-based products from the industrial to the traditional, with quality ranging from acceptable to extremely good. Some of them are geared to mass market North American tastes and are too sweet or contrived for my palate, but many are the real thing.

            2 Replies
            1. re: embee

              I too am surprised. It's hardly some exotic rare label.
              My girlfriend is from Japan & trusts them completely.

              1. re: Leonardo

                I have more expensive soya sauces, but buy a jug of Kikkoman sodium-reduced soya sauce for everyday use. It is tasty despite the much lower level of sodium. I don't have any related health problems, but have reached the age where I want to watch such things as sodium intake.

                sam, funny (and sad) how foods that everyone eats now were once decried as "weird". Even Italians got that for the strange habit ... of eating lots of green vegetables...

            2. Only thing to add is that Kikkoman produces most of its US sold Soy Sauce in the US, primarily in Wisconsin, where they own a lot of land used for soy bean farming as well as have a large plant for making soy sauce (shoyu in Japanese) as well as some of their other products. They have a plant in Fremont, CA, as well.

              There are some differences between the US and Japanese produced standard grade soy sauces - it's mostly about the alcohol content and sugar source (sucrose vs. hfcs). The soy sauce you can buy everywhere fron Costco to Stop & Shop is the American made sauce. There are also some special, expensive soy sauces, like Marudaizu, which come from Japan. These and smaller bottles of the Japanese made standard soy sauce are generally only available in Japanese food stores.

              Here is a link to an article about the history of shoyu and their company on their site. You might also want to look around for other info.

              http://www.kikkoman.com/forum.html

              7 Replies
              1. re: applehome

                Thanks for this great info. Looked into it a bit. Seems there are vary opinions of whether this is an authentic brand? i mean, not looking to go to an Asian food store, but want to use a semi-authentic sauce. Is Kikkoman better than other mainstream brands for soy sauce and teriyaki? also, do they make any other interesting products? just getting into cooking myself

                1. re: mpolatin

                  Kikkoman is about as authentic a Japanese soy sauce as you can get - even the US made stuff. It is very different from Chinese soy sauces. So you have to get the right soy sauce for the right cuisine if you're concerned about authentic.

                  As fas as Teriyaki and other sauces - these are fairly recent products in terms of being available off the shelf. I grew up in Japan in the 50's and 60's and there were no pre-bottled teriyaki or ponzu (for dipping gyoza dumplings) - these kinds of things were made by the chef or cook at home (my mom). The bottled teriyaki (all brands) has always been much too sweet for my tastes. My mom's was more sweet and sour - I make it today with soy sauce, rice vinegar a touch of mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine for cooking), and some sugar - but not too much. I add garlic, ginger, scallions, as needed. I marinate fish, chicken, beef and pork with it and put the meat on the grill over charcoal. I do not use it as a sweet glaze, which is what most Americans expect teriyaki to be. But to each their own. If you like the super sweet glaze, then you should eat it without hessitation.

                  There's a lot of stuff written about authenticity and what it really means on this site. It's an interesting discussion, but I think everybody agrees that determining what you like or dislike because it's authentic or inauthentic would be putting the cart before the horse.

                  1. re: applehome

                    I never really thought about the differences between soy sauces. Of course there's the light, dark, and thick/sweet soy sauces, but Chinese and Japanese? I guess I always sort of assumed they were the same. Could you elaborate on the differences? Is it flavor, ingredients, manufacture, use in cooking vs just dressing food, etc?

                    thanks

                    1. re: Louise

                      There is a huge difference between the cuisines, so why wouldn't you expect differences in the basic sauces? Growing up in Japan, there was only one type of soy sauce - there were many different brands, not just Kikkoman, and each had some differences, but they were pretty close, and as I found out, distinctly Japanese in character. But I didn't learn that until we moved here in the 60's and got ahold of some Chinese soy sauce with the American-Chinese food - veerrry different. I honestly couldn't stand the Chinese stuff for many years (just because it didn't conform to what I had grown up with). I learned that the Chinese had many types, as you say, light, dark, thick, sweet - where I never had seen anything but the one type in Japan. Today's assortment of light and sodium-free and various specialty soy sauces (like the wheat free tamari based, or the whole bean organic) are all products from the 70's or 80's on forward. That's not to say that these special sauces weren't getting made in Japan - they were just not commercially available or as ubiquitous as they are today. The common cuisine - in the house and the basic restaurants - all used the one basic type, and Kikkoman was always the most popular.

                      It's certainly possible that as the various recipe's become more utilized in Japan that there is more overlap with the Chinese sauces. Nevertheless, there is, in my mind, a specific character of Japanese soy sauce (shoyu) which doesn't come out of a Chinese brand bottle (Lee Kum Kee or anything else I've seen).

                      As other have written, special soy sauces for sashimi and specialty use are available. The best sushiya's actually mix their own dipping sauces for various fishes - sometimes from Kikkoman type sauces, sometimes from tamari. At home, I buy the US based Kikkoman in plastic half-gallon jugs at Costco, and the large tin of Yamasa at the Japanese food store. Most of the time, the Kikkoman by itself is fine. For sushi and sashimi, I like to mix the two 50/50. I also buy some specialty sauces (like the marudaizu) periodically for a change of pace - but they are certainly more expensive.

                      1. re: applehome

                        Thank you for the explanation. Isn't it interesting how something that you take for granted can lead to unexpected complexity and more avenues to explore? That this is one more facet of culinary knowledge that I will feel compelled to educate myself upon. Perhaps a taste off of Kikkoman vs Lee Kum Kee.

                        As far as Japanese cooking goes, was there really only one type of shoyu commonly available? I thought that one major difference of Kansai vs Kanto cooking is that the former considered the latter to like a much more 'koi' -- dark taste to their food. Also the old noble & imperial origins of Kyoto vs the upstart samurai & townsmen origins of Tokyo. So it seemed logical that there might be different styles of soy sauce.

                        I'm actually very curious about different regional cusines of Japan though have only found the most general discussions of it in the few English language references I have located.

                        1. re: Louise

                          I would recommend Shizuo Tsuji's Japanese Cooking, A Simple Art. He has a few pages on Soy Sauce and specifically speaks to the differences between what came over from China in the 8th and 9th centuries and the different product that became commercially produced in Japan in the 15th century. There is indeed a lighter sauce favored in the Osaka area, but the darker sauce has become "standard" and has the wider popularity. He gets into some detail on methods and types of mold, etc. - I'm not going to try and capture all of that here. If you don't have Tsuji's book, and you're at all interested in Japanese cooking, I would highly recommend it - it's like a bible to me - all the basics and standards are there, along with a great amount of history and explanation.

                          The other book I have that has some good information is the much more recent Washoku, by Elizabeth Andoh. She mentions some of the items that have become available more recently - like the low-sodium versions. And she also mentions where the usukuchi or light soy sauce is used (where the intense color of regular soy sauce would make the food look stained and unappetizing) - but there's more detail in her write-up.

                  2. re: mpolatin

                    Kikkoman is a good all around sauce. There is a difference between Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, etc., so you would probably have to go to an Asian market to get representative sauces.
                    Some places in the U S you can get Wang, Lee Kum Kee, and Assi brands which are all good in their own way, in local chain markets. You can also check with rest suppliers for other specialty brands.

                2. This is going to be gilding the lily for most uses, but for sashimi I like to use a specially imported shoyu by Yuasa called Ki-ippon Kuromame Shoyu. There are many premium soy sauces out there in the well-stocked Japanese markets, and having slowly gone through various brands, this bottle, which I just recently picked up, is hands down the best I've tasted so far.

                  It has an incredible roundness of flavor and a subdued, naturally balanced sweetness from the black bean (i.e.: not a sweetness that stands out and makes it sweet, but a sweetness that balances out the other components). If this makes any sense to you then you will know what I mean when I say that it has a pronounced, but quiet, flavor.

                  It is not cheap, however. I forget how much it was, but a small 200 ml bottle was perhaps around $15 or so. But considering how little one will use, a little goes a long way when used properly.

                  A koikuchi, just the smallest touch on sashimi of this incredile elixir does wonders. It's a 100% black bean soy sauce, hand made and fermented for 2 years by a 5th generation maker. I found it at my local Nijiya Market in San Diego.

                  Here's a picture of the bottle: http://www.flickr.com/photos/akatayam...

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: cgfan

                    That looks great cgfan, going to have grab some of that! I have noticed that no one has mentioned "bad" shoyu, i.e. chemical brews to speed up maturity, color etc, there are plenty out there and they taste horrific! Be sure to check that your shoyu is naturally brewed!

                    1. re: Pablo

                      Good point, although I'm not sure if there are any regulations about who can say their product is "naturally brewed", and some perfectly good brands don't bother to claim it. But whenever you're considering a new brand, be sure to check the ingredients. If you see "hydrolyzed vegetable protein" or anything chemical sounding, put it back.

                      1. re: Pablo

                        Some time after purchasing the Yuasa Ki-Ippon, I started getting a very subtle curiosity whether or not this may have been, by chance, the featured "himitsu" (secret) ingredient used in the ramen showdown on the Dotch Ryori (Cooking) Show. I remember as I checked my archives of the show that it would have been all but impossible that such a featured product (the show features some of the most rare ingredients available in Japan) would have even made it to our shores in such an available way as to be off-the-shelf at Nijiya Market.

                        Well as I played the episode back I was thoroughly taken aback to find that indeed it was this very brand and batch of shoyu! As good as I thought this shoyu was, I didn't think that there was much of a chance that this would be the very product that was so prominantly featured. Indeed this was the same product! It also pleased me to know that after trying many, many "special" shoyus, this was the only one that I found worth fussing over.

                        So here's a rare chance to both sample a unique and special artisan-made product, as well as to see and hear the story, the person, and his methods behind this incredible bottle. The bittorrent for this show can be found at this link: http://d-addicts.com/forum/viewtopic_... . The show's in Japanese, but is fan-subbed in English.

                      1. One thing I'd like to bring to this very interesting discussion, I've noticed a marked difference between the Kikkoman soy sauce (naturally brewed) bought in North America and Asia (more specifically, Canada and Malaysia). The one I bought in Canada is less salty and thicker in consistency. And almost oily.

                        An email to the KIKKOMAN SALES USA, INC. consumer department got the reply "The Kikkoman Soy Sauces made in Asian and Wisconsin are brewed and produced the same way. The difference in flavor and aroma is due to the source of the ingredients. Our various plants around the world use different soybeans and wheat than our North America plant. "

                        Any more information regarding this would be much appreciated.

                        p.s. Worchestershire sauce goes well with meat, as a dip.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: whitcoveswift

                          If you like worcestershire, see if you can get some Japanese tonkatsu sauce. It has the same characteristics but is made from totally different ingredients, and is a little more vinegary. It's used for tonkatsu - deep fried cutlets of pork breaded with panko. But it's good on a lot of other meats. The kikkoman brand is good, but see if you can find the bulldog brand - my kids just call it bulldog sauce.

                          1. re: applehome

                            Bulldog is easily the most popular tonkatsu sauce in Japan.

                            1. re: applehome

                              The principal flavors in Worcestershire sauce seem to be tamarind, anchovy and a bit of acid - vinegar? I know that for many applications where I used to use the sauce, I simply use a bit of anchovy paste instead, as I don't really need the fruitiness or sweetness. I tend to go really easy on sweet sauces in general these days, even when the dish calls for them.

                              1. re: Will Owen

                                Come to that, fermented bean paste can really add flavor while cooking. Just add in a tablespoonful to a tofu dish and wambam!

                            1. re: Caroline1

                              I've trawled through them before, but thanks for the links anyway!
                              My main concern was the difference in regional productions, it's surprising how big the difference is if it's just based on the different source of ingredients (recipe and production method remaining the same).

                            2. Kikkoman manages to be both a gateway to better sauces (many a midwest mom had Kikkoman soy in the fridge, and her children may have, upon purchasing that standard bottle, said, "Plum? Hoison?" and continued down the road to items that can only be found in Asian markets), and a reliable tried-and-true for many homecooks.