Johor Kaki Travels for Food

Tony Boey johorkaki@gmail 🇸🇬 Dairy of Singapore active senior. Best years of food, travel, lifestyle

Nanyang Sauce Brewery. One of Singapore's Last Traditional Soy Sauce Makers

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When chef Daniel Tay said we are visiting a soy sauce factory, I expected it to be interesting but it turned out to be totally mind blowing fascinating for me. You see, I expected to see gleaming tanks, shiny plumbing and white coats but never thought I'll see artisanal soy sauce brewing in modern Singapore.

Nanyang Sauce Brewery


Address: 18 Chin Bee Avenue, Singapore 619940


Tel: +65 6289 9288


Hours: 10:00am - 6:00pm (Sat & Sun closed)



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These clay vats at the entrance and a sweet fragrance (like wine) that hung in the air outside Nanyang Sauce Brewery primed us that this wasn't going to be a visit to a clinical, white coat type brewery.

Like many Chinese, soy sauce has always been an integral part of my life. I eat every meal with a dash of soy sauce for as long as I can remember. There was a time in my childhood when some meals were just a bowl of hot rice, a raw egg and a drizzle of soy sauce.

I always wanted to visit a soy sauce brewery to understand how the sauce of my life is produced. So glad to visit a soy sauce brewery today and an artisanal one with millennium old technology to boot.

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Ken Koh is the third generation owner of Nanyang Sauce Brewery founded by his grandfather Tan Tiong How in 1959 under the Golden Swan brand. Sixty one years on, in 2021, Nanyang Sauce still use the thousand year old natural fermentation method to make their soy sauce.

The ingredients of soy sauce are seemingly simple - just soy beans, yeast (which Tan Tiong How brought from Fujian), salt and water, space, time and sunshine.

Soy beans, yeast, salt and water are easy to get. Quality sunshine is plentiful in Singapore. What we don't have enough of are critical ingredients, time and space (hence, I never expected to see a traditional soy sauce brewery in Singapore).
  
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Traditional soy sauce brewing are in vats and takes at least nine months - even longer for premium brews. This take a lot of time and space compared to modern brewing techniques but the difference is clear to discerning palates.

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Traditional soy sauce brewing starts with boiling soy beans in a drum (at the back behind Ken). The cooked soy beans are spread out on steel troughs to air cool. The cooled cooked beans are then laid out on bamboo trays, mixed with yeast and flour, and rested for four days to establish the fermentation process.

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The rested soy beans are put into these clay vats with sea salt and water, and left in the sun to ferment and brew.

These vats are decades old and very precious as vats have "memories" from past brewing and pass the flavours to the new batches. The older, the more seasoned the vat, the more flavourful are the soy sauce it produces.

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Natural fermentation in the sun takes at least nine months - this cannot be rushed and nature must be allowed to take its course at its own time.

In contrast, cheap "soy sauce" commonly sold at supermarkets are actually synthesised products. They contain no soy beans and the production process takes just a day of combining and blending chemicals. Strictly speaking, they are not soy sauce as no soy beans are used in its production. (You know..., like "oyster sauce" got no oyster in its ingredients and "truffle oil" got no truffles... .)

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At Nanyang Sauce Brewery, bottling and even sticking of labels are still done manually.

At Nanyang Sauce Brewery, I noticed that the entire premises is very clean and well kept. Everything is lovingly done with modern standards of food safety and hygiene.

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Nanyang Sauce Brewery produces different grades and types of soy sauce but they all have umami-savoury and smooth taste profiles.

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The ultimate is not a sauce but crystals - soy salt. The crystals are umami crackers that make everything tastes better. Imagine sprinkling some to season your steak 🤤

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Crystals formed on the insides and bottom of the clay vat are aged for at least 10 years before they are collected and bottled.

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After tasting a soy crystal, chef Benny said it has a rich deep but smooth umami flavour and a sweet aftertaste.

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Nanyang Sauce Brewery soy sauce are available at selected NTUC Finest supermarkets. The full range is available at Nanyang Sauce Brewery's own showroom at 18, Chin Bee Avenue.

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The easiest way to come here is by car. If you take public transport, SMRT bus 79 stops right at the doorstep. Take bus 79 from Boon Lay bus interchange at Boon Lay MRT station. It's a 10 - 15 minutes bus ride from the interchange.

Written by Tony Boey on 10 Feb 2021

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4 comments:

  1. Can order online at their website, delivery charge $8 is waived for orders $50 and above.

    https://www.nanyangsauce.com/buy

    Their premium artisanal products don't come cheap though, so an order of 2 bottles of their top Virgin Brew sauce already entitles one to free shipping :-)

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  2. I haven't tried this before but I look forward to trying it soon. Before the pandemic, I used to pop over to JB or KL to get my favourite soya sauce from Bidor Kwong Heng. They sell them under the brand names of Tian Nu and Angel. Compared to most soya sauce, these are thicker in consistency and matured longer before being bottled. That really makes a difference. And the prices are not that more expensive than others, making them a regular item. I wonder if you tried them before?

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  3. Wonder how Kwong Woh Hing soy sauce compares with Nanyang sauce?

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    Replies
    1. Hope I have a chance to visit Kwong Woh Hing one day.

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