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Recipe: DC Fishwife's Japanese Sauces

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Japanese Sauces for Seafood

Japanese cuisine has a number of subtly different sauces specifically created to accompany different dishes: noodles, dumplings, meat, poultry, and -- of course -- seafood. We've written down three of our go-to sauces for you here: Sashimi Shoyū, Kaeshi, and a Tempura Dipping Sauce (our Teriyaki Sauce and Ponzu Sauce have separate recipe entries).

Shōyu for Sashimi (土佐醤油)

Tosajōyu -- Tosa Soy Sauce -- is named after Tosa, a town in Kōchi Prefecture famous for the production of katsuobushi, flakes of dried Bonito used in the recipe. Used for Sashimi, it has a fuller, richer, umami flavor than regular shōyu. In sushi restaurants, it's often colloquially referred to as "Murasaki," which means "purple" and comes from the darker color of the sauce.


2-4 cups high quality Japanese soy sauce (shōyu)

1-2 large handfuls of good quality katsuobushi flakes


Slowly bring the shōyu and katsuobushi to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat; do not allow the liquid to boil. Let simmer for 10-15 mins, then remove from heat and allow to cool.

Strain out the katsuobushi, very lightly squeezing out the liquid from the residue. Stored in a glass Mason jar in the refrigerator, it will keep for up to a year.


  1. Depending on how much you think you will use over time, either make the 2 cup/1 handful version or the 4 cup/2 handful.

  2. Because the sauce will be used on Sashimi, the flavor of which can be quite delicate, use the best shōyu available to you. If making the 4 cup version, you may want to balance cost vs. amount you'll use. Ideally, buy from a Japanese grocery. If not available, you can find excellent premium soy sauces online. We especially love the Organic Nama Shōyu made by Ohsawa; the flavor is remarkable, and it conveniently comes in a 32 fl oz size that is perfect for this recipe. If all else fails, a well-respected brand like Kikkoman is acceptable.

  3. Likewise, use a good quality katsuobushi. Ideally, you would shave your own off a solid block of katsuo, but unless you live in Japan that's unlikely. Here, price is a good indicator of quality.

  4. Some people may add ingredients like Sake, Mirin, or Kombu to their recipe, but we prefer a cleaner taste.

Kaeshi (かえし)

Kaeshi is a Japanese version of a French "mother sauce" -- a sauce base from which several "daughter sauces" are made. Kaeshi is used to make dipping sauces for cold and hot noodles, Tempura, and other dishes. Our main interest here is a sauce for Seafood Tempura (in addition to the also popular Shōyu- or Ponzu-based sauces). Although used as a base, many people enjoy the flavor of the Kaeshi itself "straight."


4 cups good quality shōyu

2 cup plus 4 Tbls sugar

1 cup of Hon Mirin (see notes)


In a small sauce pan, bring mirin to a simmer over high heat, stirring constantly, until the alcohol is burned off (about 3-4 mins). Add the sugar, still stirring, until dissolved.

Add the shoyū. As the mixture gets close to boiling, small bubbles will appear on the surface. When the entire surface becomes frothy, but not overly so, remove from heat and let cool. Stored in a glass Mason jar in the refrigerator, it will keep for up to a year.


  1. Because the Kaeshi is used in sauces for less delicately flavored dishes than is the Tosajoyu, it is not as important too use a premium shoyū.

  2. Hon Mirin, or "True Mirin," is preferred for this recipe. Unlike typical mirins found in regular grocery stores which often contain no alcohol and glucose or high fructose corn syrup, Hon Mirin has an alcohol content of between 7 and 14% (since it is a fermented liquid) and a better flavor profile. It's available in Japanese groceries or online. Avoid brands labeled "aji-mirin" which contain starch or glucose syrup,

Tempura Sauce (天つゆ)

There are a number of different sauces used with Tempura depending on the season, the seafood, and -- of course -- personal taste. This simple tsuyu is a favorite of ours become it doesn't overpower the flavor of the Tempura but instead subtly enhances it.


1 1/2 cups of Dashi (see our Dashi recipe, or use your own)

3-4 Tbls of Kaeshi (see above)


Combine the liquids in a small sauce pan. Warm slowly and gently, then ladle into individual dipping saucers for each diner.

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