by Tea Master DANIELA CUBELIC
This is a food seasoning with superpowers! It makes food taste better, yet doesn’t lead to overeating. In fact, studies indicate it has a balancing effect on appetite. When you use it, you’re likely to be more satisfied by a meal & less inclined to want to eat more (even later the same day). If your appetite or digestion is weak, it can have a gently stimulating effect.
If you think that soy sauce or tamari are just for rice, sushi, Asian-style meals & an occasional few other dishes, there is a delicious world waiting for you to discover! Many of the world’s best chefs use tamari & soy sauce as a way to add compelling & irresistible flavour to almost any dish you can imagine. It’s the hidden ingredient I use that can make people swoon at my salad dressings, stews, soups, marinades, dipping sauces & sautéed vegetables. When I reveal what it is, they are surprised because they can’t “taste” it, but they just notice that the food tastes more irresistible. I use small quantities in a lot of my cooking & reduce the amount of salt I would otherwise use & it really does make everything taste better. Often just a teaspoon or two does the trick—normally added near the end of cooking but you can also add it to meals that are being cooked in an oven, like casseroles. I make a vegan lentil shepherd’s pie & add it to the lentil mixture before it goes in the oven. How much you use in a recipe varies depending on what the food is & how much you’re making, so it’s similar to salt or any other seasoning. It’s always best to use a bit to begin with. Start with a teaspoon or so, taste the food & then increase the amount until it tastes just right to you.
The secret comes down to umami—a Japanese term which means “delicious essence” (umai) & “taste” (mi) in Japanese & can also be described as “savory”. Umami is also known as the fifth taste—like sweet, sour, salty & bitter, it is perceived by the taste buds. In China, umami is described as “the sweetness of the ocean”.
Soy sauce & tamari are rich in umami. Both are made from fermented soybeans, but soy sauce also contains roasted wheat. Tamari is produced from miso & doesn’t contain wheat. The result is a higher proportion of soybeans & a lower sodium content.
Research suggests that umami-rich foods can regulate your appetite & help reduce cravings for sugar, salt & fat. Apparently umami may signal the brain that it is eating satisfying food, which also has benefits for anyone who doesn’t have a strong appetite. In a study of elderly patients who experienced appetite loss & a reduced sense of taste from medical treatments, umami increased saliva production & their enjoyment of the taste of the food.
Infusing tea in tamari or soy sauce can up the ante & result in an even more delicious tasting, versatile seasoning with some added nutrient value from the tea. For cooking & everyday use, I prefer tamari over soy sauce, because of the more complex, rich taste & reduced saltiness. It’s also easy to find good quality, inexpensive, additive-free tamari at most grocery stores. While authentic, premium soy sauce can have a superb richness & exquisite taste, it’s harder to find the really good stuff outside of Asia, so I stick mostly to tamari.
A quick, simple meal at my house is steamed veggies (whatever happens to be in season & in the fridge) over brown rice pasta. For a meal-sized bowl, I toss the pasta and veggies in about 1 tablespoon of good quality olive or other neutral tasting oil & about 1 teaspoon tea-infused tamari. Sometimes I top with cashews, peanuts or pine nuts. It makes a comforting, fast meal. You can do the same with rice or any grain bowl.
I also often toss steamed veggies in the same combo of oil & tea-infused tamari. You can enjoy them over potatoes or grains, or as a warm vegetable salad. To make a fancier dressing, try my Asian Earl Grey + Mandarin Salad Dressing, which is a vinaigrette made with tea-infused tamari as well.
TEAS FOR INFUSING INTO TAMARI & SOY SAUCE
Green tea also contains umami & is a natural pairing with tamari or soy sauce, but there are other teas I love to infuse with tamari & soy sauce.
For a deliciously nutty, toasty flavour, infuse it with GEN MAI CHA: a tea of roasted rice & green tea.
Get inspired with more tips, techniques & recipes - watch & learn directly from Tea Master Daniela Cubelic in this captivating VIDEO SERIES.
Learn how to make chai tea soup, tea hot chocolates, mulled cider teas, tea infused oatmeal, ice cream tea floats, tea lemonades, iced teas & more. You’ll also discover fascinating facts & info about the health benefits of tea, tea history & secrets for tea brewing.
TEA-INFUSED TAMARI & SOY SAUCE
dairy-free & vegan (it will be wheat-free & gluten-free, if you make this recipe with tamari, or you can purchase a “wheat-free” brand of soy sauce as well)
makes 1 cup
4 tablespoons SILK ROAD tea
1 cup tamari or 1 cup soy sauce
DIRECTIONS1. Place tamari and dry loose tea leaves in a small saucepan on stovetop. Heat on low, watching it closely as it can overheat. After 10 minutes, turn the heat off, but let the tea continue to infuse in the tamari for an additional 10 minutes. Strain the tea leaves out and store in a sealed container in the fridge. I recommend using it up within a week for best flavour.