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Soy sauce is not only one of the oldest condiments in the world, but also one of the most popular – we consume at least eight million tons of it a year! But what gives soy sauce that complex salty umami flavor that makes it so delicious?

Researchers published new job in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistryrevealing the proteins and compounds that give the sauce its special flavor.

Soy sauce originated in China over 2500 years ago and made by fermenting a combination of salt, enzymes and mashed soybeans. However, a complete profile of its flavoring agents has yet to be obtained. Deciphering the taste of this fermented food is particularly difficult due to the complex processes involved in its creation, including microbial splitting of compounds over time.

A team of scientists conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the flavor profile of soy sauce, identifying 34 key tasters A chemical that produces taste sensations by activating taste receptor cells (TRCs) and taste-related pathways in the nervous system.

They then combined these compounds to try and recreate the taste of soy sauce. But a panel of 27 judges found that this recreation didn’t quite taste right—something was missing.

The team assumed that small proteins might be missing from the batch and used sensory proteomics approach to identifying 14 umami, kokumi and peptides that increase the level of salt, present in concentrations from 166 to 939 μmol/l.

Adding them to their artificial soy sauce, currently made up of over 50 flavor compounds, resulted in a condiment with comparable complexity, flavor intensity, and “tastyness” to the real deal. Some salt-raising proteins produced a salty sensation that was previously only elicited by table salt and other minerals. These salt-flavored peptides could potentially serve as a seasoning table salt alternative that could be better for your health. heart.

This deeper understanding of why soy sauce tastes the way it does can help tailor growing or production processes to better ensure consistent quality as well as enhance certain flavors.

Soy sauce, food science, flavoring, peptides
The process of making soy sauce. Credit: Miyajima Soy Co.



Kamaria Nasrullah

Kamaria Nasrullah

Kamaria Nasrullah holds a PhD in evolutionary development from Monash University and an honors degree in paleontology from Flinders University.

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