As you sit down for a meal at an Asian restaurant, the table setting usually consists of chopsticks, napkins, and the ultimate sushi staple: soy sauce. The scene looks so normal that you've probably never stopped to wonder: what is soy sauce? How did this condiment somehow become a necessity in sushi eating? I did some digging, and here's everything you need to know to become a soy sauce expert.  

The History Behind the Condiment

Roughly 2,200 years ago (yes, soy sauce is that old) during the Western Han Dynasty of Ancient China, soy sauce was created as a way to add salty flavor and to preserve food. The tasty condiment quickly spread throughout East Asia and eventually reached Europe, where it quickly became a commodity. Talk about a real piece of history. 

Well, What Is Soy Sauce? 

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Benjamin Martin

Soy sauce is created with fermented soybeans, roasted grains and salt. While traditional soy sauces take months to make due to the fermentation process, modern technology expedites the process with incubation chambers and vegetable proteins instead of cultures. However, some argue that these new methods take away soy sauce's traditional and ever-so-beloved flavor.

The Different Types of Soy Sauces

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Hayden Carder

Now that I've established some soy sauce basics, I need to address the various types of soy sauces. Yes, you heard that right—there is more than one type of soy sauce in existence. The various types all originated from different Asian countries.

The most common type, used in marinades and stir-fry, is Chinese 'light' soy sauce. Another type, dark soy sauce, is sweeter and darker than its more popular counterpart. In Japan, soy sauces are categorized based on color and consistency. Who knew soy sauce could get this intense? And while these differing soy sauces vary in flavor, they all have on thing in common: sodium.

Is Soy Sauce Healthy?

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Angela Kerndl

Although soy sauce isn't too high in calories (one serving contains about 10 calories), one teaspoon of soy sauce boasts a whopping 307 mg of sodium. Yikes. For comparison, a bag of salty pretzels contains about 250 mg of sodium. So, while not entirely unhealthy, too much soy sauce isn't the best for blood pressure. 

My recommendation? Always ask your server for low-sodium soy sauce. But use it with caution because even low-sodium soy sauce contains roughly 192 mg of sodium. Long story short: don't get #lostinthesauce, but a little soy sauce every now and then never killed anyone. 

Between its lengthy history and consistent popularity in both America and Asian countries, soy sauce is here to stay. Bow down, ketchup, mustard, and mayo, because soy sauce has you beat.