The primary time I can say I’ve really appreciated soy sauce was when it was drizzled on prime of ice cream. A specialty of Yamato, a neighborhood soy sauce and miso store in Kanazawa, Japan, the sauce flippantly coated every contour of the wealthy vanilla delicate serve, and I may style each dimension of the inky swirl—complicated, savory, fragrant, and caramel-like.
After years of cooking with the staple East Asian ingredient—and consuming much more of it in Cantonese steamed fish sauces, sushi platters, and stockpots of hen adobo—I’ve began to acknowledge the bounds of the only bottle of Kikkoman that sits on my (and probably your) kitchen counter. At most Asian grocery shops, there’s an entire aisle devoted to soy sauce—together with every little thing from Chinese language and Japanese manufacturers that denote types with names like “darkish,” “mild,” and “first extract,” to thicker, palm sugar–sweetened Indonesian kecap manis, to saltier Filipino toyo. Treating every of those bottles as in the event that they’re interchangeable can be like maintaining just one bottle of whiskey available at a cocktail bar.
For example, darkish soy sauce is the spine of Shanghainese hong shao rou—a braising approach that builds taste over time and provides the dish a reddish tint from a extra viscous, pungent darkish soy sauce. The duo of sunshine and darkish will also be used to paint and taste cong you mian (scallion oil noodles), during which chopped scallions are slowly cooked in oil, then combined with each soy sauces and sugar for an intensely candy, savory, and allium-heavy dish.
Facet by aspect of their bottles, they could not look that completely different, however when you pour every right into a small white dish, darkish soy sauce seems extra opaque and inky, as a result of it’s aged longer, whereas mild soy sauce has a milk-chocolate brown tint and translucency to it. Paired collectively, mild soy sauce—with its thinner consistency and extra versatile functions so as to add salty taste—and darkish soy sauce—which is stronger in deep, savory taste and provides dishes a bolder pigment—obtain a wholesome stability between saltiness and shade.
As some dwelling cooks do with balsamic vinegar or olive oil, I consider in maintaining a “fancy” bottle of soy sauce round for when event requires it—mine being a bottle of Higeta Honzen from Chiba, Japan. Oftentimes, a better price ticket means the soy sauce has been fermented longer, leading to heightened subtleties, deeper nuance, and better high quality, preservative-free substances. I’ll use it sparingly after I need soy sauce’s flavors to actually shine—like as a dipping sauce for crispy-bottomed dumplings and delicate slices of sashimi or for dressing tender greens with a soy sauce–primarily based French dressing. When you go down the soy sauce rabbit gap, it's possible you'll not return.
READ UP AND STOCK UP ON SOY SAUCE, THEN COOK WITH THEM ALL
- Basic manufacturers like Pearl River Bridge and Lee Kum Kee are dependable staples that can be utilized when recipes name for “soy sauce” or “mild soy sauce.”
- Protecting a special day soy sauce round is rarely a foul concept. Begin your assortment out proper with Higeta Honzen ($12), Yamaki Jozo ($29), or Zhongba ($40).
- Kecap manis is integral to Indonesian dishes like nasi goreng and ayam kecap, lending heat sweetness from palm sugar to stability out the soy sauce’s inherent umami notes. And, when you’re in a pinch, cookbook writer Lara Lee has a recipe for making your own kecap manis to accompany your hen nasi goreng.
- The “Salt” episode of Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix will persuade you to hunt out the great things. Nosrat travels all through Japan to go to sea salt factories, miso artisans, and conventional soy sauce brewers.
- Stop calling soy sauce “soy,” argues Cathy Erway. “Writing simply ‘soy’ implies that soy sauce is one and the identical throughout the board, which many cooks know will not be true,” she says.