What Is Mentsuyu and How Is It Used?

What Is Mentsuyu?

Mentsuyu is a seasoning made based on dashi, mirin, sake, and sugar.

Although it is mainly used for noodle dishes such as udon, soba, and somen, it is also used for simmered dishes and dipping sauce of tempura.

What Is Mentsuyu Made of?

Mentsuyu is made from kaeshi and dashi.

Kaeshi is made by simmering dark soy sauce (regular soy sauce), sugar, mirin, etc.

Dashi can be anything, for example, dashi made from kombu, bonito, mackerel, shiitake mushrooms, and iriko (small dried sardine).

What Does Mentsuyu Taste Like?

The basic taste of mentsuyu is salty-sweet taste comes from soy sauce and sugar (mirin). Also, it has great koku and umami that comes from dashi stock.
The scent of dashi differ depending on the type of dashi, so you can choose your favorite flavor.

Different Types of Mentsuyu

Straight or Concentrated

Straight

Mentsuyu specializing in one application
The shelf life after opening is often as short as 2 to 3 days when stored in the refrigerator.
You can enjoy a milder taste than the concentrated type.

Concentrated

Many products last for about a month after opening.
The flavor is more salty than the straight type.
It can be used universally for any dish

In general, the concentrated type is relatively expensive. However, it’s often good value for money because the diluted mentsuyu is sufficient for use.

Differences in Raw Materials

Different Types of Dashi

Basically, most of the mentsuyu on the market contain one or more of bonito, kombu, and shiitake mushrooms dashi. But, it varies depending on the manufacturer.

For example,

・Using freshly cut bonito shavings procured as dried bonito
Using only first-grade kombu
Using three major umami ingredients: bonito, kombu, and shiitake mushrooms
Using various fish shavings such as tuna and sardines in addition to bonito

Different Types and Formulations of Seasonings

There are various seasonings in mentsuyu such as soy sauce, sake, and mirin. The amount of each one of them totally depends on the manufacturer.

Especially the sweetness depends on the manufacturer, so you should probably check the packages and reviews of the product and try to find your favorite taste.

It seems that mentsuyu that do not use sugar at all are also on sale these days.

Similar Products (Shirodashi and Kombu-tsuyu)

Let me introduce 2 famous seasonings very similar to mentsuyu: shirodashi and kombu-tsuyu.
The name is not “mentsuyu”, however the raw materials of them are very similar to mentsuyu and people often use them instead of mentsuyu.
Please note that the saltiness differ depending on the manufacturer, so it is good to use while checking the taste.

Shirodashi

Shiro means “white”, and the best feature is that it uses light-colored soy sauce.
Because it is relatively salty, it may be better to add water or sugar (mirin) when using it as a substitute for mentsuyu. Please adjust the taste to your liking.

What Is Shirodashi and How Is It Used?

Kombu-tsuyu

As the name says, this is mentsuyu with distinctive richness of a wonderful flavor of kombu.
I think kombu-tsuyu is closer to mentsuyu than shirodashi.
You can substitute kombu-tsuyu for mentsuyu by just adding water or hot water.

How Is Mentsuyu Used?

As I said in the previous section, there are both straight or concentrated type of mentsuyu.
If it’s concentrated type, please use it after you dilute it with water or hot water according to the package.

The followings are examples of the use of mentsuyu.

Soup for Udon, Soba, and Somen Noodles

Dipping Sauce for Tempura

Seasoned Boiled Egg

You can easily make this amazing side dish by just soaking boiled eggs in mentsuyu sauce overnight.

Pasta Sauce

When you are making Japanese-style pasta, I guess soy sauce will be the main seasoning most of the time.
You can substitute mentsuyu for soy sauce at that time. It gives much more koku and umami to the dish.

Frid Rice

In the same way as pasta sauce, please try to season fried rice with mentsuyu sometime.

Japanese Mixed Rice (Takikomi-gohan)

You don’t have to add various types of seasonings to make mixed rice with your rice cooker. The flavor of the rice will be amazing by only adding mentsuyu.

Oyakodon (Bowl of Rice with Chicken and Eggs)

Because delicious dashi, soy sauce, and mirin are needed for seasoning oyakodon, mentsuyu is the best one for it.

Onigiri (Rice Ball)

The best way to use mentsuyu for onigiri is this: mix the rice, mentsuyu, tempura scraps, and aonori flakes (green dried seaweed). You will definitely love this taste!

Poke Don / Salmon Don

When you are making poke bowl or soy-marinated salmon bowl, please try to use mentsuyu. It should be great seasoning for fresh sashimi indeed!

Simmered Dishes

Japanese-style of simmered dishes often need dashi, soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar. As with the other examples, mentsuyu is the most useful, delicious seasoning for this dish.

How To Make Mentsuyu from Scratch

3 Ingredient Mentsuyu Recipe – How to Make Best Homemade Mentsuyu

What Can I Use Instead of Mentsuyu?

The 4 Best Mentsuyu Substitutes