3 Major Japanese Fish Sauce and Recipes

There has been a tradition of using fish sauce as a seasoning for a long time in Japan surrounded by the sea.

The 3 major Japanese fish sauce are:
1. Shottsuru
2. Ishiru
3. Ikanago-shoyu

Due to the difference in materials, each one’s taste and aroma are slightly different. But, all of them have a deep umami taste and rich flavor.

Here, I am explaining each feature and what kind of cooking it should be used for.

By the way, please check this page for overview of Fish Sauce
What Is Fish Sauce? and Different Types of Fish Sauce

1. Shottsuru

What Is Shottsuru?

Shottsuru is made by salting and fermenting Japanese sandfish (hatahata) or sardines, and manufactured and marketed by several vendors in Akita prefecture.

Japanese fish sauce made with these type of fish has relatively light and refreshing flavor compared to fish sauce in other countries.

A hot pot dish seasoned with this shottsuru is a representative of Akita’s local cuisine.

Suitable Dish

Nabe (Japanese-style hot pot or stew dish)

Just mix water and shottsuru to make a delicious soup. You can put your favorite ingredients such as seafood and vegetables to make a really delicious hot pot dish.

It would be wonderful even when mixed with tomato juice instead of just water.

Dipping sauce for gyoza dumplings

Mix 1 teaspoon of shottsuru and 1 tablespoon of water to make the dipping sauce.

Using a little grated ginger as a condiment would be perfect. You can taste rich taste of gyoza sauce which is different than usual.

2. Ishiru (Ishiri / Yoshiru / Yoshiri)

What Is Ishiru?

Ishiru is made by salting and fermenting various fish and squid internal organs. It’s manufactured and marketed by several vendors in Ishikawa prefecture.

Raw materials vary depending on where in Ishikawa prefecture it is produced. Highly caught seafood is used in each region including mackerel, sardine, horse mackerel, and Japanese flying squid.

The name of the sauce may vary depending on the raw material, and the name can be the followings: Ishiru / Ishiri / Yoshiru / Yoshiri.

The scent is unique, but once you get used to it, you can use it instead of ordinary soy sauce.

Suitable Dish

Fried rice

When you are finishing fried rice, soy sauce maybe added to the pot skin. At that time, you can use ishiru instead of the ordinary soy sauce.

The sauce will be a little burnt and fragrant. Since it’s saltier than the soy sauce, the amount should be reduced to about 70%.


Mix 100g boiled spaghetti with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1.5 teaspoons of ishiru. Put fried garlic and canned tuna as you like.

Umami taste and saltiness of the ishiru matches so well with the spaghetti coated with olive oil, and becomes the perfect pasta sauce.

3. Ikanago-shoyu

What Is Ikanago?

Ikanago (sand eel / sand lance / small fish of the sea bass family) is a fry that has been eaten for a long time by people especially in the Kansai area.

They often make “kugini (simmered small fish)” by boiling down the fry with soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and ginger.

What Is Ikanago-shoyu?

This fry young fish is also used as a raw material of fish sauce.
Ikanago-shoyu is made by salting and fermenting ikanago, and manufactured and marketed by several vendors in Kagawa prefecture.

It has very high salt concentration, so a major feature is that it has less unique smell than other fish sauces.

Suitable Dish

Due to the less unique smell, you can eat sashimi or cold tofu as it is like soy sauce. But, please be careful not to attach too much.

If you still don’t like the smell, cook it in simmered dish or stir-fried dish just like the regular fish sauce. The smell will be suppressed by heating. When cooking, please try to use ikanago-shoyu in the same way as shottsuru and ishiru.


The 3 major Japanese fish sauce are the followings, and each uses fresh seafood from the area where it is produced.

  • Shottsuru (Akita prefecture) made from Japanese sandfish or sardines
  • Ishiru (Ishikawa prefecture) made from mackerel, sardine, horse mackerel, or Japanese flying squid
  • Ikanago-shoyu (Kagawa prefecture) made from Ikanago (sand eel)

They are made from different seafood, so the taste is slightly different. All contain amazing umami taste and unique flavor that make the food dramatically delicious with just a small amount.

Please try to find your favorite Japanese fish sauce if you have a chance!

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