Deep Dive:

Nordic Shoyu

How it tastes:

Like the best soy sauce we’ve ever tried, to be honest: it’s the perfect balance of umami, sweet, fruity, and vegetal. So complex. And because it contains less than a third of the salt you would typically find in most traditional soy sauces, you can enjoy more of it without overwhelming your palate.

How we use it:

As our Creative Director Thomas Frebel likes to say, “Most soy sauces, unless you are using a very small amount, can make it feel like you are putting a lovely piece of fish under a rainy cloud. Nordic Shoyu makes sure that fish floats high above the clouds”. As a result, this versatile soy sauce appears on almost every menu at noma. 

How it started:

Once we started making peaso fifteen or so years ago, delving into the world of soy sauces was all but inevitable: an excellent tamari would rise to the top of every batch of our miso made with yellow peas. We couldn’t get enough of it — literally. At least not by relying on peaso-making to give us the amount we wanted.

We took the direct path and endeavored to make a proper shoyu of yellow peas via the traditional Japanese approach. At first, the results were delicious and complex and versatile. Really good soy sauce. What you didn’t detect were any notes of place; there was nothing distinctly noma about this shoyu. Why serve it, then? In the Noma Guide to Fermentation, we described this unresolved disappointment, explaining how whenever we would try to add shoyu to a dish in the test kitchen, it threatened to take you out of the moment and transport you to a distant memory of a bowl of ramen in Japan or a clay pot of braised pork in Shanghai.  

Things have changed. Since the publication of the fermentation book, we’ve learned that a few simple choices will lead us to a truly singular shoyu we are so fond of that internally we refer to it as “Noma Soy Sauce”. Instead of soybeans and wheat, our Nordic Shoyu is made with organic Danish fava beans and organic rice. The favas lend captivating vegetal notes, foregoing the rice makes it gluten-free, and a few deviations from traditional technique allow us to make the whole affair lighter and fruitier while still delivering depth. 

How we make it:

Producing our Nordic Shoyu requires patience and care. The organic Danish favas are soaked overnight and cooked, and the organic rice is roasted and cracked. We combine two parts of cooked fava beans and one part rice to make the koji, and inoculate with aspergillus sojae (the fungus used to make the majority of soy sauces and other quintessential Japanese ferments).  

We incubate the koji at around 32 C for two to three days until the mold has fully developed. The koji is added to a brine, we mix it well…and then, it’s time to wait as this “moromi” ferments for six months. We stir it regularly, by hand, keeping an eye on the process every step of the way. 

After six months, we filter and bottle straightaway: skipping the traditional last step of boiling the shoyu keeps the fruitiness that characterizes Nordic Shoyu from disappearing. A soft-heat treatment does the pasteurizing instead. 

How we recommend using it:

You can enjoy Nordic Shoyu on (almost) everything, but here are some ideas to get you started:

Try it in all kinds of vinaigrettes and dressings.

Cure your eggs in it.

Add a few drops to a soup or broth.

Fold it into mashed potatoes.

Marinate your steamed vegetables in it.

Use it to deglaze the pan when sautéing your vegetables. (Sautéed spinach and Nordic Shoyu is a wonderful thing).

Make a Nordic Shoyu beurre blanc for a pan-roasted fish.  

Brush it onto beautiful sashimi from the fish market and let it cure for a few hours.

…or simply dip that sashimi in Nordic Shoyu at the table.

Speaking of dips, try Nordic Shoyu a sushi roll, or tempura, or anything you might pair with soy sauce or ponzu, as Nordic Shoyu’s lighter, fruitier aspect makes it a good stand-in for both Japanese condiments.

You can even try it in a cocktail, such as a Michelada.