Shottsuru （しょっつる）: One of the Big Three Fish Sauces in Japan!
“Do Japanese people use fish sauce in their dish?”
The answer is, yes, we do! It is just that not commonly used like fish sauce in other countries like Thailand or Vietnam.
Let’s check up on 500ml of fish sauce made from 1 ton of fish!
Perks you can get:
- Understand what is shottsuru
- Understand the difference from other fish sauce
- Hot to use it
- Which brand to buy
In this post we'll cover:
Shottsuru（しょっつる） is a fish sauce brewed in Akita Prefecture.
It was originally called shio-jiru （Salt soup, 塩汁）, but the pronunciation changed with the dialect of Akita.
It is famous as one of the big three fish sauces in Japan.
Big 3 fish sauce in Japan:
Shottsuru（しょっつる）- Akita Prefecture
Ishiru（いしる）- Ishikawa Prefecture
Ikanago soy sauce（いかなご醤油）- Kagawa Prefecture
Traditionally, a fish called Hatahata（鰰, ハタハタ）was used for shottsuru.
The fish is known as Japanese sandfish (Arctoscopus japonicus, Sailfin sandfish) in English and is caught in Winter at the seaside of Akita Prefecture. Abundant of hatahata will come to Akita to hatch their eggs, so it’s preserved as fish sauce.
As the fish also appears between Korea and Japan from Spring to Autumn, Korea also uses hatahata to make fish sauce sometimes. But the fish is fatter and does not hold babies, unlike Akita prefectures, so it is more recommended to grill to eat.
History of Shottsuru
The history began at the beginning of the Edo era when soy sauce was an expensive seasoning. People living on the coastline of Akita Prefecture make and use shottsuru as an alternative to soy sauce.
From 1980, the Showa era, shottsuru started to be distributed commercially. Hatahata was a good catch until then, but the number of hatahata started to fall due to overfishing and it drastically fell after 1991.
As the number decreased, they started to sell shottsuru made from other fish such as sardines. And shottsuru made from hatahata has vanished.
Thankfully with the control of fishing among the fishers, the number of fish increased. But people do not consume the fish anymore and has disappeared from dining.
To retain the culture, shottsuru is known and is sold as a traditional Akita fish sauce all over Japan.
What is the difference with other Japanese fish sauces?
It has a similar pickling method to other Japanese fish sauces, in which they put fish and salt together, stir & brew for 1~3 years.
However, traditional shottsuru uses a wooden bucket or barrel to make.
Also, shottsuru made from hatahata has a mild taste and it’s not fishy. The fish has more umami and sweetness comes from amino acids and peptides.
How to Use Shottsuru
You can use shottsuru just like other fish sauce! You can add it to rice balls (onigiri), pasta, udon noodles, stir-frying dishes, etc, as a secret seasoning. You can add water to lower the intensity of the taste if you like.
However, you may want to try Shottsuru Hot Pot（しょっつる鍋）if you have hatahata at home.
You don’t have hatahata at home? No worries! You can use seabass instead, the cousin of hatahata.
Shottsuru Hot Pot（しょっつる鍋）
Hatahata (or seabass) ・・・4 pcs (about 550 gm with bone)
Napa cabbage・・・・・・½ pc
Japanese leek ・・・・・ ½ pc
Shiitake mushroom・・・ ½ pack
Tofu・・・・・・・・・ 1 pc
*Dashi pack・・・・・・ 1 pc
Water・・・・・・・・・ as needed
Shottsuru・・・・・・・ 1 tsp
*You can substitute with kombu (kelp) and bonito flakes, or dashi powder
*You can adjust the amount of shottsuru to your taste
- Trim hatahata. Remove organs and gills, rinse, and pat dry
- Boil the dashi pack, and follow the instructions on the package
- Prepare all of the ingredients. Cut napa cabbage, Japanese leek, shiitake mushroom, and tofu into a bite-size
- When 2. is ready, add hatahata and all of the ingredients from 3.
- Simmer them until hatahata is cooked and napa cabbage is transparent.
- Add shottsuru to adjust the taste
Shottsuru Brand You Should Purchase
Here are some Shottsuru brands that you might want to purchase when you come over to Japan!
- Moroi Brewery（諸井醸造）
It’s a brewer that revived shottsuru made from hatahata.
It started as a soy sauce brewer in 1930 (Showa era). They started making their shottsuru in 2000, when fishers started to control the fishing of hatahata, hoping to retain the tradition.
Now it’s the only brewery that purely uses hatahata.
They have 4 types, and you might want to try the vintage shottsuru, which has been brewed for about 10 years!
『しょっつる十年熟仙 (10 Years Aged Brewed Shottsuru) 200ml 』
It’s only produced 500 pieces in a year. It’s more mild and less fishy.
- Takahashi Shottsuru-ya Pte.,Ltd（株式会社髙橋しょっつる屋）
It is the oldest brewery that has been brewing and selling shottsuru since 1907 (Meiji era).
They are one of the few breweries that uses traditional cooking methods. After adding salt and fish such as sardine, mackerel pike, and krill, they use traditional caldron to simmer after the brewing.
They have 2 types in various sizes, so it’s easier to use.
「しょっつる (shottsuru) 360ml」
It is versatile to use in any dish such as soup, stir-fry dish, grilled dish, etc.