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Shottsuru: The Umami-Packed Fish Sauce You Need to Try Now!

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Shottsuru is a pungent Japanese fish sauce with a rich, salty flavor, made with hatahata fish (sandfish), salt, and water. It’s a popular condiment used in many Japanese dishes such as noodle soups and simmered dishes.

Let’s look at the history, brewing process, and how to use this unique sauce in your cooking.

What is shottsuru

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The Wonder That is Shottsuru: A Pungent Japanese Fish Sauce

Shottsuru is a famous Japanese fish sauce that has been a staple in Japanese cuisine since the beginning of the Edo period. It is a type of soy sauce that is made by brewing and fermenting fish, usually hatahata, with salt and water. The production process is similar to that of other fish sauces, but what makes shottsuru unique is the long fermentation time, which can take up to two years. The result is a rich, pungent sauce that is commonly used in a variety of dishes.

What are the Key Characteristics of Shottsuru?

Shottsuru is known for its strong, pungent taste and aroma. It has a rich, salty flavor that is associated with seafood dishes. Some people find the taste of shottsuru to be too strong and negative, but for those who enjoy it, it is an incredible product that is highly sought after. Shottsuru is a rare product that is not commonly found outside of Japan, and it is usually only available in small quantities.

What are Some Similar Products to Shottsuru?

There are several other types of fish sauce that are similar to shottsuru, including:

  • Soy sauce: Soy sauce is a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine that is similar to shottsuru in terms of its flavor profile.
  • Mentsuyu: Mentsuyu is a Japanese soup base that is made from soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. It is similar to shottsuru in terms of its rich, salty flavor.
  • Oyster sauce: Oyster sauce is a Chinese sauce that is made from oysters and soy sauce. It has a similar flavor profile to shottsuru, but it is not as pungent.

In English terms, shottsuru can be described as a pungent fish sauce that is commonly used in Japanese cuisine. It is made by brewing and fermenting fish with salt and water, and it has a long history that dates back to the beginning of the Edo period. While it is not a product that is commonly found outside of Japan, it is highly sought after by those who appreciate its unique flavor and aroma.

The Origins of Shottsuru: A Fishy Tale

Soy sauce has been a staple in Japanese cuisine for centuries, with its history dating back to the 7th century. It originated in China and was introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks. However, it wasn’t until the 16th century that soy sauce became widely used in Japanese households.

The Birth of Shottsuru

Shottsuru, a type of fish sauce, has its roots in the town of Akita, located in the northern part of Japan’s Honshu island. The brewing of shottsuru began over 400 years ago, during the Edo period (1603-1868), when people started using fish caught in the Sea of Japan to make soy sauce.

The Shottsuru Fermentation Process

To make shottsuru, people would collect hatahata, a type of fish, and wash them thoroughly. Then, they would layer the fish with salt in barrels and let them ferment for up to three years. The resulting liquid was then pressed out and bottled as shottsuru.

The Rise of Shottsuru as a Condiment

Shottsuru was initially used as a home condiment, but it gained popularity in the Showa period (1926-1989) as a seasoning for dishes such as natto (fermented soybeans) and rice. Today, shottsuru is still a popular condiment in Akita and is used in a variety of dishes, including hot pot and soba noodles.

The Fermentation Process of Shottsuru: A Rich and Flavorful Journey

To start the fermentation process of shottsuru, the key ingredients are fish, salt, and water. The fish used is usually hatahata, a type of Japanese sandfish, but other seafood like horse mackerel or clams can also be used. The fish is cut into small pieces and mixed with salt and water in a square wooden barrel. The ratio of fish to salt to water varies depending on the preference of the shottsuru maker, but usually, it’s around 1:1:3. Some believe that the longer the fermentation process, the better the resulting product will be.

The Role of Soy Sauce and Sake in Shottsuru Production

In the early days of shottsuru production, soy sauce was added to the mix to help with the fermentation process. However, as the production of shottsuru became more famous, breweries started to use unrefined sake instead. The sake not only helps with the fermentation process but also mellows out the flavor of the shottsuru, making it less pungent and more fragrant.

The Final Steps

After the fermentation process is complete, the shottsuru is usually aged in a barrel for a few more years to let the flavors develop even further. The resulting product is a rich and flavorful fish sauce that is a staple in Japanese cuisine. Shottsuru is usually served as a condiment for noodles or simmered dishes like chicken thighs and green onions. It can also be added to soups to give them a boost of umami flavor.

Ways to Enjoy the Versatile Shottsuru Sauce

Shottsuru is a popular Japanese fish sauce that has been a staple in the country’s cuisine for centuries. It is a versatile sauce that can be used in many ways, and it is generally made from sandfish or hatahata fish. Here are some ways to use this traditional Japanese sauce:

  • Use it as a base for soup stock or hot pot. Shottsuru adds a salty and rich taste to the broth, making it perfect for winter.
  • Add it to grilled pork or seafood. The sauce’s sweet and salty taste goes well with fatty and rich meats.
  • Serve it with stewed dishes. Shottsuru adds a pleasant umami flavor to the pot, making it delicious and light.

As a Signature Product of Akita

Shottsuru is a signature product of Akita, a local prefecture in Japan. The sauce is made by fermenting sandfish or hatahata fish with salt and kelp or bonito. Here are some ways to enjoy this local product:

  • Use it instead of soy sauce. Shottsuru has a milder and more gentle flavor than soy sauce, making it easily incorporated into many dishes.
  • Add it to East and Southeast Asian cuisine. Shottsuru’s gentle flavor goes well with many dishes from these regions.
  • Enjoy it as a dipping sauce. Shottsuru can be served in small bottles and used as a dipping sauce for various foods.

As a Beautiful Artisan Product

Shottsuru production plummeted in the early 20th century due to the popularity of commercial sauces. However, Hideki, a local producer, took on the mission to revive the beautiful artisan product. Here are some ways to enjoy this artisan product:

  • Use it as a hidden addition to dishes. Shottsuru’s umami flavor adds depth to dishes without overpowering them.
  • Enjoy it as a pleasant addition to soup. Shottsuru’s salty taste goes well with many soup dishes.
  • Use it as a base for marinades. Shottsuru’s unique flavor can be used to create delicious marinades for meats and seafood.

In conclusion, shottsuru is a versatile and traditional Japanese sauce that can be used in many ways. Whether you’re using it as a base for soup stock or hot pot, adding it to grilled pork or seafood, or serving it with stewed dishes, shottsuru is a delicious and unique addition to any meal.


So there you have it- everything you need to know about shottsuru. It’s a pungent Japanese fish sauce that’s been around for centuries and used in many dishes. It’s not as popular outside of Japan, but you can find it in some Asian markets.

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.