Journey Back To Taiwan 不虚此行的台湾之旅 (2): Traditional Hand Brewing Soy Sauce in Yunlin County, Xiluo - Wuan Chuang Soy Sauce 雲林西螺百年之酿 - 丸莊醬油
We all know that soy sauce is an indispensable element in our daily cooking. Soy sauce is rich in nutrients and can be used to enhance the flavor of dishes, deepen food colors and stimulate our appetite. Soy sauce is characterized by a full-bodied soybean aroma, a rich brown color and a distinctive savory flavor.
I travelled to the small Yunlin town of Xiluo 西螺 in Taiwan which is famous for its soy sauce making. Xiluo finds itself uniquely and fortuitously positioned as a place for preserving the traditional methods for producing soy sauce. The temperature and humidity levels are ideal for cultivating the fungus which ferments the black beans used in Taiwan’s particular brand of soy sauce, while the mineral-rich water from the area complements the smell and flavor of the finished product. The sauce and brewing methods developed in Xiluo became so known around the country as well as abroad. Today, when one mentions soy sauce in Taiwan, Xiluo is always the place that comes to mind.
Xiluo’s streets are still full of signs advertising different brands of soy sauce. Although not every household smells of fermenting soy beans, many are carrying on with their tradition. Small town of Xiluo continues to brew soy sauce using century-old methods. It is not difficult to find soy sauce in Taiwan, though high-quality sauce made in the traditional way is perhaps more of a rarity. The Wuan Chuang Soy Sauce Factory is one of the few places that not only preserves these centuries-old methods, but also allows visitors to make their own soy sauce.
台湾雲林西螺有个特产, 就是西螺酱油. 近百年历史的西螺酱油, 跟目前市面上机械化生产的黄豆酱油, 有很大的不同. 他们以黑豆纯手工酿造, 需要花四个月到半年的时间, 更重要的是, 他们用传统古法, 取代了一般酱油用的防腐剂. 将近一个世纪以来, 西螺酱油曾经成就了西螺的繁华, 却也因为敌不过食品大厂低价竞争而没落. 但现在, 随著消费者对於食品健康的重视, 传统酱油再度出现了生机.
丸庄酱油是西螺酱油的知名品牌. 将近百年历史的丸庄酱油, 发迹自云林西螺, 创立遇 1909 年, 创办人从挑担叫卖开始, 一路坚持以传统的手工酿造, 并以黑豆荫油在业界立下名号. 丸庄黑豆荫油目前是少数仍坚持保有手工纯酿的 “瓮式酱油”, 严选的黑豆经过 180 天发酵过程, 才能享有芳醇甘美的味道.
依旧是西螺, 依旧是满街林立的酱油店家招牌, 尽管不再是家家户户飘着酱油香, 这群人依旧坚持着.
Located on Yanping Road in the town of Xiluo, the factory’s wood-paneled shop front has the semblance of a homey village apothecary. Bottles of dark liquid line the walls and the strong smell of fermentation wafts from large earthenware pots in the back. The shop owner whose grandfather started the company over a century ago in 1909, said he has gotten so used to the smell of fermenting beans that he doesn’t notice it anymore. But for any visitor walking through the door, it’s a smell immediately evocative of small-scale home-brewing.
西螺这个地方气候适中, 离北迴归线不太远, 又在水溪旁边, 水质本来就好, 阳光普照, 气候又适当, 所以这里做酱油, 本来最好的地方就在这里. 一起经营家族的酱油百年老店, 并且把它发展成为行销海外的企业, 过去的酱油产业, 的确替西螺带来财富.
Wuan Chuang Soy Sauce was founded in 1909, it is Xiluo's oldest soy sauce brand. The founder utilized fermenting techniques, coupled with the unique water and climate of the Xiluo region, to produce the most delicious fermented black bean soy sauce. For decades, the brand has been well-received and recognized by the public.
丸莊酱油的总公司位于云林县西螺镇延平老街, 店内陈设所有酱制产品, 还有观光工厂.
In order to pass down the soy sauce fermenting culture, the soy sauce factory has combined tourism with culture to create the first "soy sauce tourism factory" in Taiwan. By transforming and upgrading the old Xiluo plant, as well as the overall redevelopment design, newness and charisma is demonstrated, the modified factory is open for visitors so that they can understand more about the fermentation process of the pure black bean soy sauce.
One can usually already smell the fragrance of soy sauce just by standing outside.
The black soy bean soy sauce produced there once brought great prosperity to the town, until the arrival of new mechanized methods led to the decline of the local industry. But in the recent years, Xiluo’s soy sauce has been making a comeback, as health-minded consumers choose its preservative-free, natural sauces over cheaper alternatives at the supermarket.
The shop's naturally fermented black bean soy sauce is known for its mellow flavor and dark mahogany color. In Taiwan, the shop owner told me that he compares the flavors of black bean and yellow bean sauce using a tea analogy. Black bean soy sauce is like oolong tea and yellow bean sauce is like jasmine tea. The flavor of black bean sauce is deeper and lingers in your mouth for a long time. Yellow bean sauce is more fragrant because the beans are mixed with wheat but the flavor is fleetin
这是介绍丸莊酱油的故事, 可是要从一百年前说起, 可见丸莊酱油的历史还真是悠久.
I never thought i would even be able to tell the difference between soy sauces, but as soon as you are at this century-old place, you smell a rich aroma that comes from the naturally brewed black beans. You can even have a taste of it and you will notice that their soy sauce is more viscous than any other mass market competitors. And the taste is rich and complex, not too salty, with a slight sweetness at the end.
做酱油没有那么轻松, 要煮酱油是很累的, 有的做一做以后, 父亲要交棒给儿子, 儿子就不愿意接手了, 第二代不想接的话, 自然就断线了, 所以从(以前)二叁十家, 到现在差不多十间工厂左右, 这是一个自然淘汰的法则.
A tour of the soy sauce facility includes a historical video and many informative information boards on the history of both types of sauce and the production methods used.
蒸煮了一个半小时的黑豆, 从压力锅里热腾腾地倒出来, 因为是古法酿制的酱油, 过程繁复, 不但要靠人力手工, 每道程序还得耗时间.
六十六年次的锺政卫, 承继家族将近百年的酱油工厂, 负责酿造生产. 黑豆酱油工厂, 空中瀰漫的发酵气味, 处处佈满菌丝的墙面跟器具, 恐怕会头皮发麻, 不过对这群把黑豆, 变成酱油的艺术家来说, 这些菌丝可都是宝贝.
One of the boards explains how the famous Taiwanese-style black bean soy sauce is being produced. The beans are first washed, soaked and then boiled until they become soft. After they have cooled, they are spread onto circular racks arranged in vertical layers and a species of fungus is introduced and allowed to develop on the beans. The ideal conditions for culturing the fungus are a temperature between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius and moderate humidity. Xiluo’s geographical position as mentioned earlier, provides just such conditions.
In addition, the fungus is left to grow on the beans for seven days. At this point, it will have penetrated the skin and permeated the bean. The outer layer of crusted fungus is then washed off and the beans are put in large earthenware pots. Salt is mixed in thoroughly and a thick layer is also spread on top to seal out any contaminants. The pots are placed outside in the sun for six months, to assist the fermentation. The fungus breaks down the proteins in the black beans, releasing the amino acids that give soy sauce its distinctive umami flavor. Some companies replace this long, natural fermentation process with a chemical fermentation process in which hydrochloric acid is used to break down the beans and which takes a mere three days to complete. The effects of this corner-cutting on the sauce’s flavor and nutritional value is predictably detrimental.
The factory offers a DIY session in soy-sauce making and there is no need to book in advance. The whole process takes six months, of course, but the DIY class at the factory takes you through the preliminaries and leaves the six months of fermenting, up to you.
走到后面就是丸莊酿造酱油的嗮缸埕, 大型的甕整齐排列拍起来壮观好看, 豆菊在甕中经过 180 天发酵才会有原汁. 会使用甕来酿造酱油主要原因是甕有天然气孔, 能在黑豆发酵过程中有透气保温的发酵条件, 选好甕才有好酱油.
The company uses these traditional earthenware pots because they naturally regulate the temperature of the fermenting soup within, keeping the mixture comfortably below 40 degrees. Any higher and the mixture will spoil. After six months under the sun, the viscous broth of beans, amino acids and salt is pressed until every last drop of raw soy sauce is free.
According to the shop owner, one pot can yield up to 80 bottles of rich, sun-baked soy sauce. One can taste the unfiltered sauce straight from the earthenware pot. It’s opulently savory, raw, salty and rounded, with a pure, elemental aroma. It has everything that is comforting about home cooking, while at the same time retaining that bold saline kick.
The large ceramic urns contain saline at a standard concentration. Once the black soy beans are added, rough salt is used to seal the top layer. The rough salt prevents the black soy bean from coming into contact with air. It’s the most natural preservative. Once the lid of the urn is closed, in the next four to six months, the soy beans will rely only on the microorganisms within.
Take chemical soy sauce for instance, a bottle of this kind of soy sauce takes only three to seven days to manufacture. Whereas this black bean soy sauce will take over four months to slowly mature.
The four to six months of fermentation produces soy sauce that is light brown, extracted from black soy beans. This is no match for the low-cost mass-manufactured soy sauce from large food corporations. Traditional style black bean soy sauce can only differentiate itself by emphasizing its lack of added preservatives.
It’s not so easy to make soy sauce. Cooking soy sauce is very tiring. Sometimes after managing this business for a while, a father wants to pass it on to his son, but the son is not interested. If the second generation is not interested, then it naturally dies out. So from the 23 or so factories previously, there are now about 10. It’s a process of natural selection.
Those who were born during the heydays of Xiluo’s soy sauce boom later saw black soy bean soy sauce beaten by the regular soy bean soy sauce or even chemical soy sauce made by large food manufacturers.
Over here, black soy bean soy sauce is being brewed purely. It’s fermented whole-grain in the urns, without additives. It’s just that simple and really pure. There’s nothing else to it. In the old days, people just wanted to get whatever was the cheapest. Nowadays, some people do not just want what’s cheap or available. Instead, they prefer to get something they can really enjoy in a healthier and tasty manner. Hence, the century-old Wuan Chuang Soy Sauce factory owner has been actively promoting to its consumers know that black soy bean soy sauce is actually safer, healthier and more natural product.
出生在西螺酱油的辉煌时代, 后来却看到黑豆酱油, 被食品大厂机械化生产的黄豆酱油或是化学合成的酱油, 打击得一蹶不振. 丸莊醬油厂一直跟人解释说, 黑豆酱油一定是纯酿造的, 它整粒整粒在红甕里面发酵, 不掺杂别的东西, 就是这样而已, 很单纯, 也没做什么东西, 早期的人只想要价格便宜的就好, 现在的人, 有的人不见得只要便宜的, 反而是要安心的东西, 所以既然能够让消费者知道, 黑豆酱油是比较安心的话, 它就有商机了.
现在丸莊醬油除了有实体的店面, 在知名的网路购物平台内也可以看到丸莊酱油的身影. 未来丸莊酱油将进攻中国, 新加坡等东南亚国家, 让西螺名产成为台湾之光. 因为观光工厂的设立, 消费者有机会亲眼目睹传统酱油的製作过程, 对传统酱油更喜爱, 更有信心, 观光, 体验与销售相辅相成, 业绩也倍增.
这次来到同样是百年企业的丸莊酱油观光工厂, 感觉也很特别, 也更认识了酱油, 现场还有壶底荫油DIY 活动, 下次来到西螺丸莊酱油观光工厂别忘了买酱油回去喔.
去一趟西螺, 听听丸莊酱油说故事, 那里期待您的造访.
Journey Back To Taiwan 不虚此行的台湾之旅 (3) - To be continued.....
A freelance Singapore-based travel photographer / photojournalist. I seek the extraordinary, but finds beauty in the everyday. Life is interesting, capture it.
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