TAMARI! 27 Sep 2012
Tamari is a word that makes plenty of appearances here on the blog, and an ingredient that we use in several of our Lithe Foods, but what is it exactly? It looks and tastes like soy sauce, so what's the distinction? Why use it instead of conventional soy sauce?
First, tamari is a type of soy sauce, but not all soy sauces are tamari. Soy sauce, invented in China around the 2nd century BCE, is made from 50% soybeans and 50% grain (typically wheat), brine, and other fermenting agents. Used as condiment to bring out the flavors in food (and probably as a way to stretch salt), it soon began to spread throughout Asia to Korea, Japan and beyond.
The Japanese name for this grain and soybean product, or soy sauce, is called shoyu. Tamari, on the other hand, was actually discovered as a byproduct of producing miso. Thick brown pools of the liquid would collect in casks of the fermenting soybean miso, and was considered a rare delicacy for centuries. Eventually producers learned to produce a liquid soy sauce very similar to the miso by-product using only soybeans, sea salt, water, and a fermenting agent. Making it a grain/wheat free alternative to traditional soy sauce or shoyu.
But be careful! There's a ton of confusion in the marketplace when it comes to the difference between shoyu and tamari. Some companies use the words interchangeably, so if you have a wheat allergy, be sure to double check the label of the "tamari" you're buying to make sure it's actually wheat free!
Some say finding a good soy sauce, tamari, or otherwise, is almost as difficult as discovering a good bottle of wine or excellent olive oil. The balance of complex flavors, salt, and its ability to harmonize with the foods its used in are all characteristics to look for if you really want to get into soy sauce--tamari--or otherwise!
If you're not up for that just yet, but would like a wheat free alternative to soy sauce, try your hand at this recipe, or try one of these Lithe Foods that contain tamari.
Lithe Ravioli w/ Spaghetti Squash (in our Fall/Winter Seasonal Detox Plan)