What Is Nama Shoyu?

Nama shoyu is unpasteurized soy sauce - but is it raw?

Nama shoyu
Nama shoyu.

What is Nama Shoyu? What does Nama Shoyu mean?

In Japanese, nama means raw (or unpasteurized) and shoyu means soy sauce. So, Nama Shoyu is a raw, unpasteurized Japanese-style soy sauce popular amongst those following a raw and vegan food diet.

Though nama shoyu is actually heated well above the usually raw-allowed 115°F, it is still used by many raw foodists because it contains beneficial living enzymes; those following a raw vegan diet will usually consider that the beneficial enzymes counteract the fact that it was heated above the allowed temperature.

The Ohsawa brand Nama Shoyu (pictured, at left), for example, is fermented, or cultured, in the traditional way, in wooden barrels under the sun. The label boasts "living enzymes and beneficial organisms". 

A few very strict and pure raw foodists don't consume this nama shoyu because it isn't technically raw, but the depth of flavor it adds to dishes remains crucial to many and is regularly incorporated in the diets of raw foodists as well as in most raw food restaurants. Though there is some small debate in the raw food community about nama shoyu, most raw foodists will include nama shoyu in their diet as an acceptable product, especially since it is usually consumed in such small quantities. The presence of the living enzymes seems to supersede the heating that takes place before the culturing process. The same goes for foods like fermented cashew cheese, though the cashews may not be 100% fully raw, the presence of so much living enzymatic activity makes up for it, according to all but the most strict adherents of a raw food or raw vegan diet.

 

What Are Some Alternatives to Nama Shoyu?

Nama shoyu adds a rich depth of umami-like flavor as well as a hearty dose of saltiness. A bit of sea salt or kosher salt can replace or substitute Nama Shoyu in a pinch, though it won't be quite the same. You can also make your own homemade raw vegan substitute for Nama Shoyu if you are gluten-free or simply prefer a fresh, truly raw vegan experience.

Not eating a fully raw vegan diet and looking for a substitute for nama shoyu? Nama Shoyu is also similar in taste and function to:

How to Use Nama Shoyu When Preparing Raw Vegan Meals

Nama shoyu can be used in the same way that you would use soy sauce. The possibilities are nearly endless! Here are a few suggestions:

  • Marinades
  • Dipping Sauce (for lettuce wraps or raw nori rolls)
  • Raw Soup Stock
  • Salad Dressings
  • Sauces
  • As a general condiment (ie. leave it sitting out and put it on everything! I like to add a splash of Nama Shoyu to salads and vegetable dishes)

Recipes Using Nama Shoyu