Kyoto Sawai Shoyu Honten Soy Sauce Candy

Japanese make hard candy with some novel indigenous ingredients and flavors that often sound culinarily dubious but actually taste quite good. This is one, shoyu ame, or soy sauce candy. It is made by a shinise shoyu producer that still makes handcrafted soy sauce the heart of the ancient city, just a few minutes walk from the Gosho Imperial Palace. While soy sauce might not sound like a good match for sweets, there are some precedents in Japanese culinary tradition.

Kyoto Marusawa Shoyu Honten Soy Sauce Candy 澤井醤油本店 醤油の飴

Japanese Hard Candy: Shoyu Ame

Sawai Shoyu Honten Soy Sauce Candy 澤井醤油本店 醤油の飴
Sawai Shoyu has been in business in Kyoto since 1879 and makes the premium quality brand of Marusawa Soy Sauce. The immediate neighborhood smells nearly oppressively of fermenting and brewing soy sauce and the old wooden store houses can be seen at the back of the site.

I have used Marusawa shoyu and ponzu for several years but when I stopped by the other day to get my favorite grapefruit ponzu I spotted this hard candy flavored with soy sauce. I have seen this kind of candy before but I don’t recall ever eating it so I picked up a bag.

The sauce that is poured over mitarashi dango grilled mochi dumplings is sweet and shoyu based. I don’t much like it but it is very popular with Japanese and this confection was invented in Kyoto centuries ago.

Kyoto Marusawa Shoyu Honten Soy Sauce Candy 澤井醤油本店 醤油の飴

Award Winning Soy Sauce: Marusawa Brand Shoyu

Kyoto Marusawa Shoyu Honten Soy Sauce Candy 澤井醤油本店 醤油の飴

Award Winning Soy Sauce: Marusawa Brand Shoyu

How did soy sauce candy taste?
It hardly tasted of soy sauce. It tasted like hard candy with this, hmm, what is that taste in there? If I hadn’t known that it included shoyu, I doubt that I would have caught it, it was that subtle. Actually, I think that the taste was a bit too understated. Obviously, a little shoyu goes a long way — with anything, especially candy! However, my tongue wants to know what it is that I am eating. It is not enough for my eyes to just read the label and know.

There is a concept in Japanese cuisine called kakushi-aji, literally ‘hidden taste’. A hidden taste is what it sounds like. It is there, you pick it up but it is not quite pronounced enough for most people to be able to isolate it and identify it. For example, in Kyoto-style sushi, quite a bit of dashi broth is used to make the sushi rice. If you just taste the sushi rice, you can’t miss it. By the time it becomes sushi, it isn’t a prominent taste but it does add depth and complexity to the overall flavor.

I see the shoyu in this candy as fulfilling the function of a kakushi-aji but it is billed as the main event on the package. I doubt that was the makers intent, but that is how it comes off for me. Whatever the case, it is a contradiction. I think that if they doubled the amount of soy sauce they put in, it would be just right. But, I could easily be wrong! I think this is a tough combination to get just right. But this is Kyoto, it has to be just right!

There is a shinise that makes salt flavored hard candy that I sometimes but, it isn’t from Kyoto. It is out of this world, and I don’t even like salt! That candy is subtle and delicate yet you know you are eating salt flavored candy. So, I think my ideal is possible.

Nevertheless, I like this shoyu ame candy quite a lot and it would make a novel and tasty omiyage souvenir to bring back home.

Kyoto Marusawa Shoyu Honten Soy Sauce Candy 澤井醤油本店 醤油の飴

Shuyu Ame Package

This is a very lame package design with lots of plastic waste. It needs some serious kaizen. Too bad.

Kyoto Marusawa Shoyu Honten Soy Sauce Candy 澤井醤油本店 醤油の飴

Marusawa Shoyu Honten Machiya Facade

Kyoto Marusawa Shoyu Honten Soy Sauce Candy 澤井醤油本店 醤油の飴

Marusawa Shoyu Honten Sign

SHARE! Kyoto Support Forum: Shopping, Souvenirs and Kyoto Meibutsu

SHARE! Kyoto Support Topic: Where to Purchase Basic Ingredients for Japanese Cooking in Kyoto

Tweet! Tweet! Find out what’s going on in Kyoto right now, follow me on Twitter.

Map to Sawai Shoyu Honten

View OpenKyoto/KyotoFoodie Map in a larger map

6 Responses to “Kyoto Sawai Shoyu Honten Soy Sauce Candy”

  1. Faith says:

    This candy sounds so interesting! I love the idea of a “hidden taste”…it’s so much fun to try something new and try to identify the flavors in it!

  2. Kiara says:

    That “hidden taste” concept is actually really neat.

    I think I’ll have to keep it in mind for future food experiments.

    The candies themselves remind me of those root beer candies, haha.

  3. How intriguing, I’d love to try them. I’ll have to look to see if we can find them in our Japan-town. Thanks so much for introducing me to these candies.

  4. What a great concept this ‘hidden taste’ is… ! And I love the way the candy looks, like some shiny hazelnuts. I never buy candy in the Netherlands, but I am sure I would if in Kyoto…

  5. […] Dori and Muromachi Dori streets. In the neighborhood is the famous Toraya wagashi confectionary and Sawai Shoyu Honten soy sauce brewery. Honda Miso Honten Entrance and Noren Curtain Honda Miso Honten Interior White […]

  6. Cathy says:

    I bought some shoyu ame from the hundred yen for omiyage last time I went home to New Zealand, along with a whole lot of other Japanese flavors. the shoyu flavor turned out to be everyone’s favorite.

Leave a Reply

ContactCopyright © Kyoto Foodie: Where and what to eat in Kyoto, All Rights Reserved.