Food Practices

Soy Sauce Across Asia: Tradition, Taste, and Technology

by Hong Kong Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences
27 May • 07:00pm

You probably have this in your pantry. It is, after all, the glue that ties together most Asian dishes. Join us for a panel discussion where experts will detail the differences in soya sauce production within Asia and help untangle the history behind our go-to umami sauce!

Soy Sauce Across Asia

If you have ever wondered how soya sauce became a ubiquitous household staple, this is the panel for you. Four researchers, and a soya sauce maker from Hong Kong’s Koon Chun Sauce Factory are coming together to discuss its history and examine the differences and similarities across production methods in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Japan. The development of soya sauce, after all, can be used to map and track technological and industrial development, globalisation as well as the heritage value of food.

Originally a traditional condiment produced on a small scale, soya sauce became an industrially-produced commodity during the 20th century. More recently, a growing number of consumers have taken a liking to artisanally produced soya sauce.

About the Speakers
Angela K.C. Leung (China and Taiwan)
Director and Chair Professor of History, Hong Kong Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences
Joseph Needham-Philip Mao Professor in Chinese History, Science, & Civilization, Hong Kong University
How does the memory of traditional techniques and industrialization technology in the mid-20th century impacts soy sauce making in contemporary China and Taiwan. How do manufacturers retrieve the “authentic” product, and why does this matter?

Izumi Nakayama (Japan)
Research Officer and Fellow, Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences
I will discuss the early modern Japanese soy sauce infrastructure as the foundation for 20th century expansion, and the contemporary turn towards artisanal productions.

Hallam Stevens (Singapore)
Associate Professor of History, NTU
This presentation will trace the history of soy sauce in post-war Singapore through the contrasting stories of two companies: the well-known Yeo’s and the less famous Kwong Woh Hing. The different fates of these two companies demonstrates the changes priorities of the government and the shifting tastes of Singaporean consumers.

John Wong (Hong Kong)
Associate Professor, HKIHSS and Hong Kong Studies, The University of Hong Kong
Tracing the origin of the Made-in-Hong-Kong label of soy sauce to the embargo of Chinese goods in the aftermath of the Korean War, I will explore how recent disruptions resulting from Sino-US conflicts have reinvigorated interests in the label and resonated with a wave of local consumerism in Hong Kong.

Daniel Chan (Hong Kong)
Fourth Generation of Koon Chun Sauce Factory


Hong Kong Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences

The Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, established in 2001 at HKU, has a mission to promote innovative, multi-disciplinary research and teaching in the humanities and social sciences. Focusing on China in Asia and in the world from both historical and contemporary perspectives, it supports diverse platforms for a critical community of scholars to share experiences across the globe.

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