Soy-free Japan… does it exist?? There are so many soy products originating in Japan.
大豆 daizu: soy bean
醤油 shoyu: soy sauce
味噌 miso: soy bean paste
豆乳: soy milk
Recently, I have heard about soy allergies. In Japan, this would seem to be quite difficult to cope with as many staple products use soy. So what are your choices here in Japan? Believe it or not, you have quite a few!
First, here are some important words you should know or look for on packages.
アレルギー arerugii: allergy
大豆不使用: soy non-use (soy-free)
大豆を使わない: soy beans are not used (soy-free)
大豆を含む: contains traces of soy
Unfortunately soy allergy is not on the mandated allergen list for manufacturers (so even though it MUST be listed as an INGREDIENT, it does not have to be listed as an allergy WARNING); however many manufacturers follow the expanded recommended allergen list (which soy is included on).
In Okinawa, I found some products in the SanA which are substitutes for typical soy-based products. You can find these in the allergy and special dietary needs section which next to the organics foods section in the SanA. Below are soy-free versions of shoyu, miso and tsuyu. I will try to update this list as I see more in the stores. I hope this will be helpful to those looking for soy-alternatives.
soy-free shoyu: 旨味しょうゆ さしすせそ “umami shoyu sashisu seso” is made by Tsuji company. It is soy-, wheat- and seafood-free.
ingredients: yeast extract, salt, seaweed extract, bamboo extract
soy-free miso: おみそ調味料 “omiso choumiryou” is made by Yamasaki company. Again allergy friendly since it is wheat- and soy-free.
ingredients: rice and salt only (all domestic Japan products, fermented for 3 months).
soy-free tsuyu: Wheat- and soy-free. It does contain sesame (goma) and fish products though. Made by Ninben company.
ingredients: katsuobushi (bonito), fish dashi, sesame, salt, 3 types of millet, sugar, salt, seaweed dashi, fish extract, yeast extract, brewed vinegar
**fish extract in this product contains bonito, horse mackerel, and sardine.
jimami tofu ジーマミー豆腐: This is special to Okinawa! It is “tofu” made from peanuts. It is not quite the same as tofu, but with some experimentation, you could easily use it for a variety of things. Many brands make this, so be sure to check the ingredients closely for traces of soy or any other allergies. Also, many will come with a sauce packet– do not use this, it typically has shoyu (soy sauce) in it!
typical ingredients: peanuts, arrowroot powder or potato starch, water.
Lastly, I have not seen it in stores, but I have seen available on amazon.co.jp, something called quinoa shoyu (soy sauce) キヌア醤油 which is also soy-free, only made from quinoa and salt. One brand, Maruhide, also makes some other soy-free products such miso, tsuyu, vinegar, ponzu. You can view them on their website, and search for them locally (they are based out of Kyushu) or on Amazon.co.jp: http://www.shizen1.com/
**BONUS: These are just a few examples of soups and curries are in the “allergen” special foods aisle in my local SanA (there are a few others, just look for the key words above)! They are all specifically SOY-FREE, as well as many other allergen-free (such as wheat and dairy), listed clearly on the package. While a bit more aimed more towards children, they are in fact good for anyone.
This may be useful to have on hand:
アレルギーの為 大豆製品が一切食べられません「味噌、醤油 を含めて」。ご了承下さい。
Due to allergies, I cannot eat any soy products including soy sauce and miso. Thank you for your understanding.