I was always baffled by tamari. I had never used it until one of my friends and faithful readers of UM suggested that I should write about tamari vs. shoyu (soy sauce) on Japanify.
So this week, I purchased San-J brand's Tamari (I chose that brand because I happened to have San-J brand's Organic Shoyu stocked in my pantry right now).
Tamari comes from the word "tamaru" in Japanese which means "collect, gather or accumulate." Tamari was originally a liquid byproduct of the miso-making process (which involves fermenting soybeans, which apparently the Japanese do in many many ways). Essentially, fermenting miso "sweats off" tamari.
Tamari (left), Shoyu (right)
While shoyu is made out of roughly 50% soybeans and 50% wheat, tamari is made with little or no wheat - so it's a good shoyu substitute for people who are allergic to wheat. The result for tamari is a much thicker and milder sauce than soy sauce. But remember, both types are produced from the fermentation process.
While the unapologetically and piercingly salty shoyu is the best choice for sushi and sashimi, tamari is ideal for sauces and dressings for more depth and umami. I have yet to try making tsuyu with tamari, but I can predict that it will be a better choice than shoyu.
A taste comparison I did was for a salad that I am lately pretty into making. Canned tuna, garbanzo beans dressed in Japanese mayo, shoyu/tamari, EVOO and black pepper. The dressing was good with shoyu, but rounder and more agreeable with tamari. After making the same salad while substituting shoyu for tamari, I finally understood why tamari might work better in certain situations.
This was my salad:
3 handfuls of mizuna
5 okra sliced (optional)
1/2 cup of garbanzo beans
1 canned tuna/salmon
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp EVOO
2 tbsp Japanese mayo
salt and pepper to taste
Mix canned fish and garbanzo beans into a mixing bowl.
Add dressing ingredients into the bowl and mix well.
Slice okra and wash mizuna. Place mizuna and okra in a big salad bowl. Then add the fish mixture to the salad bowl and toss. The fish mixture may clump together so don't be shy to use your hands to toss the salad and coat the mizuna leaves well.
The tamari was perfect in the salad, which didn't overpower the delicate mizuna leaves. It was also a perfect accent to the raw okra which can taste a little... well - raw.