Zhongba Handcrafted Soy Sauce (Naturally Brewed 1 Year)
Finally, America has a premium, naturally brewed Chinese soy sauce with no additives or preservatives! Sichuan's famed Zhongba Soy Sauce has been made continuously by one family since 1828 and is still made the traditional way, creating umami organically over a long fermentation period with zero need for added sugar, alcohol, caramel, msg, chemicals and preservatives. Additionally, this ultra-premium version is brewed in large earthenware crocks and hand-stirred daily for a year.
As many articles on the Internet will tell you, if you live in America you've probably never tasted real soy sauce, since supermarket soy sauces usually contain one or all of the above ingredients to make up for the fact that they are fermented for only a short period of time or, worse, created chemically over a few days.
Like all traditional Chinese soy sauce, Zhongba Soy Sauce is made from water, soybean, wheat, salt and time. But it does have a secret umami ingredient: mushroom. The company sources a famed white mushroom that grows wild in Zhangjiakou (in northern China) called "mouth mushroom" (口蘑). Like the Asian matsutake, the small, fleshy mouth mushroom is a member of the Tricholoma genus and has been prized for centuries for its taste and nutrients. The dried mushroom is infused into the fermented sauce, contributing its natural glutamic acid.
Zhongba does not taste like mushroom, per se, but this proprietary mix makes for a deep-red soy sauce with full body and mouthfeel and a compellingly complex flavor that is so much more than salty. We invite you to do a taste test with this soy sauce and any other you happen to have on hand to understand the true difference a long, natural brewing process and 200 years of experience make.
The photos here show the process of the handmade sauce 1) yellow soybeans are selected and steamed; 2) they are inoculated with mold cultures and moved to the incubation room; 3) the resulting soy mash is mixed with wheat flour and salt and sealed in an earthen crock to ferment for six months; 4) it is then uncovered, exposed to the sun and hand-stirred daily for the next 360 days; 5) finally, it is strained and water is added to arrive at the perfect balance of flavor and saltiness; 6) dried mushrooms and spices are then added for a final infusion; and 7) this first pressing is pasteurized and bottled.
Unlike Southern China, which is well known for its light soy sauce and dark soy sauce, Sichuan traditionally had just one type of soy sauce. But nowadays it follows the Southern tradition and calls this a light soy sauce, as opposed to a "dark" soy sauce, which has added molasses. Light does not refer to calories, salt content or taste.
(While there are some very fine Japanese soy sauces being imported to the U.S., they are very different in production process, ingredients and ratios and are not recommended for Chinese cooking.)
The Zhongba factory is located in the town of Jiangyou ("Soy Sauce"), Sichuan, and is a China Time-Honored Brand, meaning it has painstakingly documented its long and esteemed history. It even has a large museum onsite, which is one of the only places besides The Mala Market that you can buy its small-batch, handmade soy sauce, since the company makes too little to distribute to supermarkets in China.
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While pricier than we would like, there are good reasons: It is a large bottle (it’s really a bottle and a half); it requires doubly-safe packing materials; it was subjected to a very high Trump tariff; and it was stirred every single day for a year by an actual human!
If you become as enamored of it as we are, please spread the word so we can sell enough to justify the faith that Zhongba has in us to represent this bit of Chinese intangible cultural heritage in the U.S.
Producer: Sichuan Qingxiangyuan Flavoring Co., Jiangyou, Sichuan
Ingredients: Water, soybean, wheat, salt, mushroom
Contains: soybean, wheat
Best by: January 2022
Size: 23.8 ounces (705ml)
- A Mala Market Exclusive
- All-natural soy sauce with no additives, coloring or preservatives
- Very small batch, stirred daily by hand for 1 year
- Proprietary recipe ferments soybeans with the prized "mouth mushroom" for added umami and nutrients
- Full-bodied and deep-red color
- Extra large, 24-ounce bottle
- China Time-Honored Brand, in operation since 1828