Soy sauce makes just about everything taste better. One thing many people don’t know is that there are a myriad of options for soy. There’s aged soy sauce, shoyu, tamari, for starters, and then, pertaining to this post, there’s flavored soys. There’s mushroom-infused soy sauce, and that can be good if you get a decent brand, and that’s the one that got me thinking about this fermented ramp leaf soy, which, clocking in at two ingredients, is a fascinating lesson in minimalism and simplicity, as well as a lesson in creative fermentation and layering deep, rich flavors.
Originally, my idea was this: puree some ramp leaves with soy, allow it to macerate for a month or so, strain and bottle. Easy right? Yes, and you can do that, and it will taste like ramp soy sauce. I made a version that was ok, but, after you’ve tasted the incredible aroma that comes from fermenting ramp leaves, like me, you may be wondering if there’s a deeper flavor to be coaxed out here, and there is.
For the second version of the ramp leaf soy, I wanted to ferment the leaves before adding them to the soy, or figure out a way to ferment them in the soy, to trap as much of that rampy flavor we all know and love inside the liquid medium.
Knowing that salty liquids make things float, on a hunch, I tried out an experiment. I sliced up a bunch of ramp leaves, put them into a little restaurant cambro (I couldn’t live without those things, one of the chef tics I still hold onto) poured in a bottle of quality soy sauce, shook it, put a lid on, and forgot about it for a while.
My hunch was right. The leaves floated to the top, pushing the soy to the bottom. But, there’s still enough soy coating the top layer of leaves to allow fermentation to occur. I watched each day, noticing what happened as the mixture transformed into something completely new and different than the first version I’d made. After a week, the leaves were giving off the weapons-grade aroma I crave, so I buzzed them up in the Vita Mix. My first thought was to strain it, but, after considering it for a moment, I thought better of it, and left the soft, pureed leaves in the soy.
Leaving the pureed mass in the soy does a couple things here. One, it allows them to continue macerating and penetrating the liquid, changing and developing over time with age. Two, it cuts the salt a bit in the finished mixture, not a lot, but enough to make it so I could enjoy a little more of it as a condiment than I normally would. That being said, if you wanted to strain the soy out for a cleaner product after the fermentation, you sure could.
The finished product is hands-down the best infused soy sauce I’ve ever tasted, and it just couldn’t be easier or more fun to make. As far as using the finished product, it’s more than just a condiment for rice, here’s a few ideas.
- Mix the soy with citrus for a fantastic wild take on ponzu, for each half cup of ramp leaf soy, add about 2 tablespoons of lime or lemon juice.
- Combine the soy to taste with honey for a funky, albeit thinner take on teriyaki.
- Add you favorite hot sauce either alone, or in combination with the two previous methods if you like some heat. Using some ramp sriracha would be, of course, the ultimate.
- Use it as a marinade.
- Use in place of salt in your favorite salad dressing.
- Mix it with mayo and lemon or lime juice, along with some toasted sesame oil for a nice, creamy sauce for fish, chicken or vegetables.
Fermented Ramp Leaf Soy Sauce
- 1 15 oz bottle of high quality soy sauce
- 8 oz fresh ramp leaves, washed, cleaned and dried
- Slice the ramp leaves into 1 inch pieces, then put into a container and pour the soy over them.
- Stir the leaves in the soy to coat them, then put a lid on the container and allow it to ferment for 7 days, stirring occasionally.
- After seven days, and up to two weeks, pour the stinky ramp leaves and soy into a blender and puree until very smooth, about 60 seconds on high.
- Pour the finished soy into a wide container like a bowl and allow to settle. Skim any green foam that rises to the surface, you may not be able to get all of-it's ok, just get as much as you can (this is also purely cosmetic, but worthwhile in my opinion).
- Transfer the sauce to a container and store in the fridge or in a pantry, the high amount of salt and fermentation make it shelf stable without need for canning.