Inside San-J, Richmond's soy sauce factory
A 200-year-old Japanese soy sauce manufacturer has been quietly making one of the country's most popular brands of tamari out of a plant near the airport in eastern Henrico for 35 years.
- It plans to host open houses annually going forward.
Tamari soy sauce, the type made by San-J in Henrico, differs from traditional soy sauce because it's made with 100% soybeans, as opposed to the 40%-60% soybean-wheat ratio of regular soy sauce.
- The distinction results in a smoother, less salty sauce — and one that happens to naturally be gluten free.
The gluten-free part helped increase San-J's popularity with home and restaurant chefs in recent years, San-J president Takashi Sato tells Axios.
- To keep up with demand, San-J more than doubled its Henrico production facility in 2019 and today can be found in more than 18,000 stores nationwide.
Flashback: San-J opened its U.S. headquarters in Henrico in 1978 as a sales operation, Sato tells Axios.
- His father chose Richmond for its central location on the East Coast, proximity to the Port of Virginia and climate, which is similar to Japan's, including the humidity.
- Soy sauce production began in 1987.
Today, San-J is made in Henrico using the same techniques Sato's family began using in Japan eight generations ago in 1804:
- Soybeans are cooked into mash, fermented with water and salt for up to six months, then pressed, pasteurized and filtered into the final product.
💭 Karri's thought bubble: My favorite part of the open house was making my own miso, as I now have a baggie of rice and soybean koji in the back of my cupboard I need to remember to check on in six to 12 months.
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