Techly Explains: What’s the deal with the little soy-sauce fish that comes with ALL takeaway sushi?

If you’ve been to a sushi restaurant in the last 25 years, chances are you’ve encountered something a little fishy. And we don’t mean the sashimi.

No, we literally mean this little fishy.

Soy Sauce Fish Container

They’re tiny, fish-shaped, soy sauce bottles, and sushi shops throw them around like they’re goddamn confetti at a wedding.

But what’s the deal with these things? Why are they that shape? And where do they all come from?

Turns out, the majority of the soy sauce in these packets are manufactured by Kikkoman, the world’s premier supplier of Japanese soy sauce.

You’ll probably know Kikkoman as the manufacturers of this iconic soy sauce bottle; a revolutionary design known the world over, which hasn’t changed in over 50 years.

Other parts of the world, especially the USA, provide soy sauce to accompany sushi in little cellophane tubes that end up looking like a black jellybean-flavoured Zooper Dooper that no child would ever want to drop their hard-earned pocket money on at the canteen.

It’s a good time to acknowledge the environmental impact of single-use plastics like these. They often end up in landfill or the ocean, which have disastrous effects. Rather than chucking them in the bin (or under the table if you’re gross), try to make a conscious decision to recycle these lil’ guys.

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The tiny fish, however, originated in Japan, and spread across the world, from China, to Australia, to Norway.

More than just looking like a little fishy friend, the design has characteristics that give it a serious edge over the competition.

Firstly, its nose is resealable, meaning the soy sauce can be saved or re-used. Secondly, owing to its shape, which takes advantage of two molecular properties displayed by the liquid – adhesion, the tendency to cling to surfaces, and cohesion, the tendency for the liquid to cling together – it’s non-drip, and only dispenses soy sauce when squeezed, unlike the little plastic packets.

Thirdly, it holds about three millilitres of condiment – the perfect amount for a sushi roll (and something taken advantage of in the unlikeliest of situations as well).

But what about the fish shape? Turns out that’s actually a pretty simple answer.

Asian countries are home to a wide variety of soy-based sauces, some used in cooking, and some used as condiments, each with slightly different flavours. The fish shape is there for one simple reason – because this particular sauce is meant to be consumed with the fish you get in your sushi roll.

Mind. Blown.

About the author

Karl is the physical embodiment of an alternate universe where Kurt Cobain played for Hanson, instead of Nirvana. When he’s not furiously bashing a keyboard and howling in pain, he can probably be found mumbling into a microphone somewhere, or up in the gym working on his fitness (with Fergie as his witness)

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Comment (5)

    good to know

    Friday 12 August 2016

    I had actually always wondered about this but had never looked it up…I wonder if the shape is copyright to just this company?



    Thursday 25 August 2016

    Or re-use them as art or play activities for children; at home, in childcare centres, schools etc………..recycle what isn’t biodegradable….use it, play with it, decorate with it……….the only obstacle is not being creative.



    Tuesday 30 August 2016

    Also the tail of the fish is meant to be used for spreading wasabi



    Thursday 8 September 2016

    We reuse ours. Just squeeze, dip into soy sauce, and recap. They are super convenient for sushi and rice paper rolls for school.



    Monday 8 April 2019

    Kikkoman are soy sauce rockstars!