Mentsuyu, also known as Tsuyu, is a Japanese soup base typically prepared using sake, mirin, soy sauce, kombu and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes). It is usually added to soba and udon noodle dishes, and its flavor is said to be subtle yet strongly savory. Because of the addition of soy sauce and bonito flakes, this sauce is also said to have a slightly meaty, umami flavour.
Mentsuyu is a multipurpose sauce and is used as a primary sauce or broth to add flavour to noodle dishes, rice bowls, hot pots and the tempura dipping sauce. Also considered to be a staple in Japanese cooking, it can be used for both hot and cold dishes.
Origin & Cultural Significance
The term “mentsuyu” is a Japanese word that is made up of two words: “men”, which means noodles, and “tsuyu,” which refers to stock or sauce. Hence, mentsuyu literally means noodle sauce.
It is believed that this Japanese delicacy may have been invented in the 14th century because, during that time, miso tare (miso and water) was considered to be one of the main ingredients used in the Japanese dishes. Miso tare is also the forerunner to mentsuyu.
It was later that people included bonito flakes (katsuobushi) to improve its flavour. It is said that in the 17th century, dashi (a type of stock) was used as one of the ingredients in the sauce. It was also when locals started to use this primary version of this Japanese delicacy as a sauce for soba noodles. With time, mentsuyu has evolved according to people’s preferred tastes. Today, one can easily find pre-made mentsuyu in Japanese (or Asian) convenience stores.
Japanese Mentsuyu Recipe
- Soy sauce – 1 cup
- Mirin – 1 cup
- Sake – ½ cup
- Kombu – 1 piece
- Katsuobushi – ⅓ cup
- Begin by taking a large saucepan and adding soy sauce, mirin, sake, kombu and katsuobushi to it. It is generally recommended to use dark soy sauce instead of light soy sauce as it helps provide the sauce with a richer flavour. Also, you can use shiitake mushrooms instead of katsuobushi if you want to prepare a vegan version of this sauce.
- Adjust the heat to medium-high and wait till the stock comes to a boil.
- Now, make sure to reduce the heat to a low as soon as it reaches a boil. Allow the soup to simmer for around 5–7 minutes. Keep in mind that mentsuyu should thicken a little before you remove it from the heat.
- Once done, take the pan off the heat and, using a fine mesh strainer, carefully strain the prepared sauce to get rid of the kombu and katsuobushi, and there you have it!
- Allow the prepared sauce to cool completely before adding it to other dishes or storing it for future usage. The mentsuyu will be fit for consumption for about a week. And remember to store it in an airtight container and place it in the refrigerator.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 87Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1402mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 0gSugar: 10gProtein: 2g