• Wednesday, 19 June 2024

Tauco: A Unique Umami Boost from Chinese Heritage

Tauco: A Unique Umami Boost from Chinese Heritage
Salt fermentation stage in making tauco at Tauco Cap Meong Cianjur. Photo source: Kompas.com

SEAToday.com, Jakarta-If you're in for that mouthwatering umami flavor, you can go to numerous ingredients. Indonesian, and Asian countries in general, mostly will choose monosodium glutamate or MSG, the King of Flavor. However, aside from MSG, there is an exotic umami enhancer that has been a hidden gem in Indonesian cuisine–Tauco.

Tauco, a soybean-based seasoning brought to Indonesia by Chinese migrants, adds a distinctive umami and tangy kick to a variety of dishes. The magic lies in a meticulous and time-consuming fermentation process with the assistance of beneficial bacteria. Yes, we let these good bacterias buddies do the job. P.S: No shortcut for the fermentation process. 

One shining example is Tauco Cap Meong in Cianjur, a four-generation-old legend dating back to 1880. The traditional method has remained unchanged over the years. Starting with sun-drying soybeans to reduce water content, the process includes grinding, boiling, and another round of sun-drying. The soybeans then undergo mold fermentation for 3-4 days, followed by a second sun-drying to halt the fermentation.

Next comes the salt fermentation stage, lasting 3-4 months, during which ceramic jars are strategically opened for oxygen turnover. This step is crucial for the growth of good bacteria and further reduction of water content. The final fermentation stage takes 6-12 months to produce the dry tauco, which is then cooked with spices and palm sugar to create the ready-to-use tauco.

Tauco Cap Meong offers a sweeter profile compared to the original Guangdong Jiang in Chinese cuisine. Similar fermented soybean pastes exist worldwide, such as miso in Japan, gochujang in South Korea, Pon Ye Gyi in Myanmar, and Tao Jiew in Thailand.

Pekalongan and Medan also have their versions of Tauco. The brand ‘Pulau Djawa’ in Pekalongan has been producing tauco and kecap (sweet soy sauce) since 1950, mainly used in Tauto, a spiced broth soup served with chunks of beef, chicken, or cow intestines. In Medan, ‘Gajah Dua’ crafts its version, although details about the production process remain unknown.

 

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