How is Japanese sauce (ソース) different from... sauce? (+Recipe)

Today we have a guest post from Kiyomi, who blogs at All About Japanese Food. She explains the difference between what we call sauce in the West and what Japan considers to be sauce (ソース).  


Today I would like to introduce a sauce that is unique to Japan, plus a popular recipe that is best accompanied by this particular sauce.

What does ソース(sauce) mean in Japan?

If you are living in Japan, have you ever gone to a supermarket and asked, “ where is the sauce (ソース)?” and the clerk showed you some dark, thick sauce that you had never seen before?  This is what we call ソース in Japan. Unlike “sauce” in English, the ソース in Japanese refers specifically to a black, thick, liquid-type sauce, such as ウスターソース, とんかつソース(濃厚ソース), and 中濃ソース. It can also include other varieties such as 有機 (organic ones) or 塩分カット (low sodium). Other sauces like soy sauce, tomato sauce or mayonnaise are called by their individual names, so they aren't referred to as "sauce" in Japanese.

ソース in Japan

What is ソース, exactly? 

Have you ever tried ソース? Perhaps on tonkatsu (a fried pork cutlet)? Spicy, thick, and sweet? ソース in Japan is derived from Worcestershire sauce. It was introduced to Japan in the 19th century and followed its original development to be what is now called ソース,  a condiment for 洋食 (ようしょく , youshoku) which is a Japanese-style Western dish.

These are the ingredients shown on the label. Underlined ingredients are ones written only on one or the other. If you compare, you will see the difference between the original Worcestershire sauce and the ソース developed in Japan.

Worcestershire Sauce (LEA&PERRINS brand)
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • tamarind
  • onions
  • garlic
  • anchovies
  • spice
  • flavoring

ソース (Bulldog brand)
  • tomato
  • apple
  • carrot
  • onion
  • plum
  • lemon
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • salt
  • yeast extract
  • spice

How does ソース taste?

ウスターソース tastes most similar to Worcestershire sauce, spicy and light. Tonkatsu sauce (とんかつソース, 濃厚ソース) is soft and mild using more vegetables and fruit. Starch is also added to thicken the sauce. As its name とんかつ indicates, it goes well with fried pork cutlet. 中濃ソース stands between the first two for both the taste and thickness.

とんかつソース and 中濃ソース are popularly used as condiments for Japanese croquettes, fried oysters, or fried pork cutlets. A pinch of ウスターソース is often added to a beef stew or tomato sauce to enrich the taste.

Let's try とんかつソース!

If you are wondering if you should try ソース or not, I hope you do because it will show you what Japanese-Western cooking is like! I recommend starting with とんかつソース as it is sweet and mild and goes really well with とんかつ (Japanese pork cutlet). 

とんかつ is a very popular dish in Japan, especially as good luck for an entrance examination or competition, as かつ (katsu) is a homophone with 勝つ (かつ) which means to win! 


Cooking time: 15 mins
Servings: 1

1~2 pork cutlets (かつ用豚ロース肉)
1 egg, beaten (卵)
bread crumbs (パン粉)
wheat flour (小麦粉)
1/6 cabbage, shredded (キャベツ)

Cut the tendon off the pork cutlet with a kitchen knife. Pound the pork cutlet with a mallet to soften. Sprinkle salt over them and coat with wheat flour. Dip them in the beaten egg, then the bread crumbs. Heat the oil and deep-fry the breaded pork cutlet for about 5 mins until it is fully cooked with a nice brown color. Dish up with shredded cabbage. Eat while it's hot and crispy!

I love adding ground sesame toとんかつソース. It has a distinctive aroma and goes perfectly with it!


If you would like to know more about Japanese food, drop by my blog! Any questions or requests are welcome.

Kiyomi is Japanese, born and brought up in Tokyo, where she currently lives. She graduated from Tsuji culinary school majoring in Japanese cooking and worked as an assistant for a home cooking school. She is in her thirties, spending most of her time chasing after a crawling baby. She devotes her limited spare time to blogging about Japanese food. Her blog has recipes and some cultural stories, and she hopes to be the best guide to Japanese cooking. You can also find her on Twitter at @kiyomikitchen

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