It’s soy good! Interview with Ken Koh, third-generation soy sauce maker

  • Soy sauce is just soy sauce… or is it? Ever wondered how it is made and what makes one taste better than the other?
  • TheHomeGround Asia visited Nanyang Sauce Brewery in Jurong, western Singapore, which continues to produce soy sauce the traditional way and is one of the last few Singaporean sauce makers with local operations. We speak with owner Ken Koh, who took over the business in 2017, to find out more.

A third-generation soy sauce maker, Ken Koh shares the origin story of the business, which his grandfather Tan Tiong How started in 1959. The late Mr Tan first arrived in Singapore in 1942, from Fujian province in China.

Mr Koh describes Nanyang Sauce Brewery’s preference for the traditional method of slow fermentation, rather than the way commercial soy sauce is made by speeding up the process to a day using acid hydrolysis. Instead he believes that the traditional process produces a richer and more flavourful product. Which is to say involves mixing non-GMO soybeans with wheat flour and aspergillus mould, before allowing to ferment in its own time, for months, under the sun in giant vats.

Mr Koh has transformed his family’s soy sauce business by embracing the artisanal side of things. He has since introduced new ideas to the company, such as packaging its premium-grade soy sauce as gifts, increasing product variety, and starting a Sauce Academy, where he holds workshops and sauce-tasting sessions to showcase the flavours of the company’s sauces.

Participants can choose from various types of workshops, where they can make their own chemical-free bottles of soy sauce, or learn how to pair food with different combinations of sauces.

Last month, Nanyang Sauce Brewery held a soy appreciation workshop on 8 May as part of Singapore HeritageFest 2021, presented by the National Heritage Board.

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