Show me, shoyu

20 Apr

For the grilled, marinated tofu that we put on our homemade banh mi sandwiches, I used both light and dark soy sauce in the marinade.  Have you ever tried to recreate an Asian dish from a restaurant and found it to be too salty or lacking in sweetness with a thin, runny sauce?  It may be due to using the wrong kind of soy sauce.

It wasn’t until recently that I found out that there was more than one type of soy sauce.  I’d only used the Kikkoman-esque stuff that you find on the tables of every Asian restaurants.  Turns out what many of us consider to be just plain ‘ol soy sauce is really light soy sauce.  In this case, light is not referring to reduced calories or sodium, though there is light sodium light soy sauce.  The “light” in light soy sauce refers to the thickness or viscosity of the soy sauce.  Light soy sauce is thin and runny, with a distinct, salty taste.

Dark soy sauce, on the other hand, is called so because it’s thicker.  Dark soy sauce has been aged and often blended with molasses or another sweetener.  While light soy sauce is usually added at the end to add salt and flavor, dark soy sauce is added early in the cooking process.  Cooking helps to develop flavors and sweetness; the first time I heard of dark soy sauce was in a recipe from HFW for Chinese style soy glazed pig’s feet.  I’m not sure if this was due to the dark soy sauce, but it was probably the best Chinese food I’ve made!

Recently, The Splendid Table did a segment where host Lynne Rosetto Kasper tasted five different types of light soy sauce straight from the supermarket in a blind test.  The contenders were:

  1. Kikkoman, $1.19
  2. Pearl River Bridge, $1.29
  3. Eden Organic Tamari, $5.39
  4. La Choy, $1.12
  5. San-J Organic Tamari (Gluten-Free), $4.89

You can see the results (and the tasting) in this video:

Who would of thought that the soy sauce in cabinets and refrigerators across the U.S. would be a taste-test winner?  I guess Lynne has confirmed what Kikkoman has been saying all along: the moment you pour Kikkoman soy sauce, food becomes incredibly delicious.

You can find Kikkoman light soy sauce at any grocery store.  Check your local Asian market for dark soy sauce and try it out the next time you cook Asian food.

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