頭抽 (Tai Chau) first-extracted soy sauce, Have you ever heard of "二抽"(Yi Chau) 2nd extracted soy Sauce and "三抽" (Sam Chau)3rd extracted soy sauce?
The term "頭抽" usually appears in the context of Cantonese soy sauce or Fujian soy sauce production.
As the name suggests, "頭抽" (Tai Chau) can be understood as the "Extra Virgin" of soy sauce. It refers to the first extraction of soy sauce during the production process. The taste is usually richer with more umami, and the color tends to be reddish.
The concept of "二抽" and "三抽" comes into play in the production of light soy sauce ("生抽"). While practices might differ among soy sauce factories, the general methods are as follows, based on what I know:
In the process of Cantonese soy sauce production, the raw materials are often reused multiple times to extract as much as possible. For "二抽" and "三抽," the same batch of raw materials undergoes a shorter fermentation period before extraction. This process significantly reduces the intensity of flavors, aroma, and freshness compared to "頭抽."
Therefore, when producing light soy sauce, the soy sauce factory will mix "頭抽," "二抽," and "三抽" in proportion to create light soy sauce, ensuring a consistent flavor profile for the final product.
The reason why the umami and flavor profile of light soy sauce is relatively milder compared to Japanese soy sauce is due to the process of back-slopping and the shorter fermentation times of "二抽" and "三抽," which result in a less intense flavor compared to the longer fermentation of Japanese soy sauce.
This method of production is said to have originated during times of war and scarcity when resources were limited. The goal was to maximize the use of available ingredients to produce a larger quantity of more affordable soy sauce. It could also be tailored to suit the flavors of Cantonese cuisine.
The different methods of production in various regions have their own reasons and contexts, making direct comparisons difficult. Each method has evolved to suit local tastes, available resources, and cultural preferences, which is why they can't be directly compared in a straightforward manner.
In traditional Japanese soy sauce production, there is no distinction between "頭抽", "二抽", and "三抽" like in Cantonese-style soy sauce making. All the soy sauce undergoes a minimum of 12 months of fermentation and is only pressed once. This prolonged fermentation period and single pressing contribute to a richer flavor profile. In essence, all of their soy sauce could be considered as "頭抽".
Of course, soy sauce is much more complex than that. Next time, I will discuss the main types of Japanese soy sauce.