Recently as I was browsing the bookstore, I came across a magazine that explained various Japanese “ways of life” for foreigners. Of course, the magazine was in Japanese, so I question exactly who this magazine was aimed at (after all, if you already speak Japanese, you are probably fairly aware of many aspects of the culture already). But anyway, I did see an interesting short article and chart explaining Bull-Dog sauce.
Now I am pretty familiar with the Bull-Dog brand sauce (as well as the various spin-off brands) and have long used it prior to moving to Japan. But what I found most interesting was the star chart that evaluated the characteristics for 6 different types of Bull-Dog brand sauces; sweetness, fruitiness, sourness, spice, and viscosity. After all, if you are new to Japan, and hear about this Bull-Dog sauce or maybe you had some at a restaurant and now you want to buy some for home, how do you choose which one to buy when you see these different sauces that all look basically the same?
First, let us start with what is this sauce? “Sauce” ソース in Japan refers to a thick brown, slightly sweet and fruity sauce with a bit of spice, somewhat similar to Worcestershire sauce but developed for Japanese tastes. A quote from the Bull-Dog sauce English webpage:
“The primary ingredients in Japanese sauce are vegetables and fruits, to which vinegar and many spices are blended. This had the effect of deepening the richness and increasing the appetite. Japanese tonkatsu sauce uses a lot of vegetables and fruits like tomatoes and apples, which make it a highly viscous sauce well suited for deep-fried foods, without getting them greasy or soggy.”
Okay, sounds good~~ but…
What is it used for? Well, almost anything, from tonkatsu to okonomiyaki to hamburg steak to stir-fries! It is kinda like the Japanese version of barbecue sauce or steak sauce. Admittedly, I always have at least one (if not more) of these Bull-Dog sauces in my fridge at any given time since it is so versatile and tasty.
Now, back to the magazine article…
Chart key points: sweetness 甘み, sourness 酸味, viscosity 粘度, fruitiness 果実感, spice flavor スパイス感
From left to right, up to down, here is the quick run down:
#1 とんかつ tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet): sweetness 8, sourness 6, viscosity 10, fruitiness 5, spice 7. Very thick, balanced sauce.
#2 贅沢ブレンド とんかつ luxury blend tonkatsu: sweetness 7, sourness 7, viscosity 8, fruitiness 10, spice 8. Good as a demiglace sauce.
#3 中濃 chuunou (meaning “medium-thick”): sweetness 5, sourness 9, viscosity 6, fruitiness 6, spice 8. Thinner but “punchier” sauce, perfect for fried foods.
#4 贅沢ブレンド 中濃 luxury blend chuunou: sweetness 6, sourness 8, viscosity 5, fruitiness 8, spice 10. With 24 types of herbs and spices, with a refreshing taste.
#5 うま uma: sweetness 8, sourness 7, viscosity 4, fruitiness 7, spice 6. Made more to Japanese-style tastes, with konbu (kelp) and katsuo-dashi (fish broth), garlic and goma (sesame).
#6 スーパープレミアム極 super premium: sweetness 8, sourness 8, viscosity 3, fruitiness 9, spice 9. This is the super premium version of the original “worcestershire” sauce. Balanced and smooth, one of the more versatile of the Bull-Dog sauces.
Of course, there are some more sauces that are not on this chart, but hopefully this can get your started into the world of choosing the best BullDog sauce for you!
Other sauces you may see are the original “worcestershire” ウスター (this is not really the same as English worcestershire sauce), organic versions of the above mentioned sauces, and even specific takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and yakisoba sauces! And this is just the Bull-Dog brand… !
For those who would like to delve even deeper into the world of Japanese brown sauce there is an interesting and funny blog post by someone who ate a lot of tonkatsu with different brands of “sauces” and gave them ratings (this was in our beautiful home Hawai’i). Intense, but you will learn a lot! http://tastyislandhawaii.com/2009/12/07/the-great-tonkatsu-sauce-shootout/