Food & Drink

Those Little Soy Sauce Packets Don't Contain Actual Soy Sauce

Your kitchen probably conceals dozens of them. They lie in wait, in silverware drawers and refrigerator bins, for a time that will most likely never come. They're those little soy sauce packets you get with every order of sushi or Chinese takeout, and they're in it for the long haul. Aside from the fact that they frequently shoot out brown liquid at unexpected angles (and are therefore vastly less preferable to an actual bottle of the stuff), there's one more reason to be wary of these miniature condiment containers: what's inside them most likely isn't even soy sauce.

The Atlantic recently published an informative history of the packets, which were popularized by American businessman Howard Epstein. Epstein had familiarity with using sealed bags to contain freezer pops and tea, but entered into unfamiliar territory when he decided to try and revolutionize portable soy sauce for the growing air travel industry. However, many years after his idea became standard practice, "soy sauce" packets have a different problem.

Rather than soybeans, most are made with "hydrolyzed vegetable protein," which -- while it could be processed from soybeans -- is too ambiguous of a term to know for certain. Legitimate soy sauce (Kikkoman and other Asian brands) usually lists soybeans as the second or third ingredient. The packets also usually contain caramel coloring, molasses, and MSG, none of which are present in the real stuff either. And all of this comes right after learning that our wasabi is a lie, too.

Adam Lapetina is a Food/Drink staff writer at Thrillist, and is just going to buy all his condiments in bulk now. Read his musings at @adamlapetina.