Japanese cuisine uses a variety of seasonings, including dashi (Japanese soup stock). However, it is difficult and time-consuming to make dashi every time, and it is difficult to prepare all of the numerous seasonings.
It is common for Japanese households to use granulated dashi or dilute concentrated soup containing dashi. Men-tsuyu is a type of such concentrated soup.
That’s why mentsuyu is useful for home cooking.
What is mentsuyu? What is the difference between Tsuyu?
Mentsuyu (めんつゆ or 麺つゆ) is a compound word of “men” (めん) and “tsuyu” (つゆ). “Men” means noodle and “tsuyu” means soup. So, mentsuyu is basically a concentrated soup for Japanese noodles such as soba and udon.
Although mentsuyu means soba & udon noodle soup base, it can be used for various dishes. Mentsuyu contains dashi, soy sauce, mirin (sweet cooking rice wine), sugar, and so on. And these are common seasonings used in many Japanese dishes.
Mentsuyu is sold by a variety of food manufacturers, and the product names vary.
- Mentsuyu (by Ninben, Yamaki and etc.)
- Hon Tsuyu (by Kikkoman)
- Tsuyu no moto (by Ninben)
- Tsuyu (by Somi and etc.)
There are subtle differences between them, but broadly speaking, they are the same mentsuyu.
Recipes using mentsuyu
Using mentsuyu, you can quickly make the following dishes.
- Soba (buckwheat noodles) soup
- Udon noodles soup
- Somen noodles soup
- Tempura dipping sauce
- Nikujaga (simmered meat and potatoes)
- Oyako don (chicken and egg bowl)
- Gyudon (beef bowl)
- Locust tsukudani
- Nitsuke (Japanese simmerd fish)
Of these, 1-4 simply dilute mentsuyu with water to make a soup or sauce. Dilute thinly for soups and thickly for sauces. The dilution ratio is indicated on the product package.
Somen tsuyu and tempura sauce are available as special products, but you can also use mentsuyu as a substitute.
Items with links include recipe articles. Depending on the dish and taste, sweetness or dashi may be added.
I had initially planned to show you these recipes, but I found that a mentsuyu manufacturer had already created recipe pages in English. See the following web page:
How to get mentsuyu
Mentsuyu may be expensive if purchased outside Japan. You can also purchase Yamaki’s mentsuyu at Amazon.com but in Japan it is less than U.S. 2 dollars. I recommend buying it at an imported food store or when traveling to Japan.
In Japan, you can buy it at any supermarket, convenience store or drugstore.
Product names of mentsuyu vary, but always include the word “つゆ”.
How to use mentsuyu
Mentsuyu is usually concentrated. The dilution ratio of mentsuyu is written on the product label, but in case you don’t understand Japanese, here is the general dilution ratio.
For example, in the case of 3-fold concentrated mentsuyu, dilute with water as follows.
Dipping sauce of noodles: x3 (mentsuyu : water = 1:2)
(Soba or udon) noodle soup: x6
Simmerd fish: x2
Nikujaga (simmered meat and potatoes): x5
Oden soup: x14
Recommended mentsuyu brands
Popular brands of mentsuyu in Japan include Yamaki, Kikkoman, Ninben, mizkan, and Yamasa.
The mentsuyu I recommend is “Tsuyu no Moto” from “NINBEN” (にんべん, top image). NINBEN located in Tokyo is a katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) manufacturer founded in 1699. Because of this history, the flavor of katsuobushi is exceptional and you can achieve an authentic taste. You can buy it at supermarkets and drugstores in Japan.
However, Ninben’s mentsuyu may be too expensive on Amazon.com. If it is difficult to obtain, Yamaki’s Men Tsuyu or Kikkoman’s Hon Tsuyu are also recommended. Although the names vary, they are all equally usable mentsuyu (the thickness may vary).
Yamaki is also a manufacturer of katsuobushi, and Kikkoman is a manufacturer of soy sauce. Both mentsuyu are commonly used in Japan.
Also, broadly speaking, mentsuyu tastes different in western and eastern Japan. The main difference is that usukuchi (薄口, thin taste) soy sauce is preferred in western Japan. As a result, mentsuyu in eastern Japan tends to be darker in color, while mentsuyu in eastern Japan tends to be relatively lighter in color. And, usukuchi soy sauce tastes sweeter and mellower.
The following is a popular product as mentsuyu in western Japan. This is a powdered type of soup stock. If you like Kyoto’s udon soup, this may be a closer choice.