The history of soy sauce in Korea has been viewed as a progression from premodern handicraft to modern industrialization. Questioning such a linear perspective, this article examines the history of soy sauce during the late Chosŏn (1392–1910) and colonial (1910–45) periods through the lens of taste. Traditional soy sauce made from blocks of fermented soybeans called meju appeared only in the eighteenth century alongside the standardization of homebrewing. This, however, did not lead to a standard taste of soy sauce, as taste was understood to be naturally variable across households, and women were the arbiters of taste in each family. The notion of Korean soy sauce possessing a coherent taste emerged during the colonial era. As commercially brewed, and later industrialized, Japanese soy sauce entered the Korean market, taste gradually acquired a new role for consumers as a guide to navigate the increasingly heterogeneous foodscape. Focusing on the practice of blending and pairing different kinds of soy sauce, this article argues that taste became a site of culinary experiments and an instrument of knowledge building that linked the premodern and modern modes of making and cooking.
Taste as Governor: Soy Sauce in Late Chosŏn and Colonial Korea
Kyoungjin Bae is James P. Storer Assistant Professor of Asian History at Kenyon College. A historian of late imperial China, she specializes in the craft, material culture, and cross-cultural studies of the period.
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Kyoungjin Bae; Taste as Governor: Soy Sauce in Late Chosŏn and Colonial Korea. Gastronomica 1 November 2020; 20 (4): 53–63. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2020.20.4.53
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