Soy sauce is a true staple ingredient for me. It adds a salty, savouriness to a dish as well as a gorgeous colour. (Psst: have you tried my Soy Sauce Roast Chicken yet?) But not all soy sauces are created equal. In fact, I’d recommend stocking your pantry with three different varieties so you always have the right product to hand. But with ‘soy’ much to choose from, where do you start? If you’re wondering what type of soy sauce is best for your Asian (and even your fusion!) cooking, you’ll want to read this handy guide.
Soy sauce adds a strong umami flavour to dishes. Made from fermented soybeans, it’s salty and savoury and helps to level up the flavour profile of a number of Asian dishes, especially Chinese recipes. Try it as a dipping sauce for your dumplings, sushi or sashimi, to add extra umami goodness to soups, stews and broths, or as part of a marinade for meat and seafood.
There are several varieties of soy sauce, and as such there can be variations when it comes to the ingredients. However, soy sauce is typically made using soybeans, wheat, salt and a fermenting agent – typically yeast.
It’s a good idea to keep your pantry essentials stocked up with a couple of different variations of soy sauce, as they are each have their strengths when used in certain dishes. Hopefully this guide to the types of soy sauce will help!
Usually, whenever one of my recipes calls for soy sauce, I’m using an everyday, Chinese variety, which for me is ‘light soy sauce’. It might sound a bit confusing at first, but the ‘light’ part actually refers to the colour, rather than its level of saltiness. Try it in my Traditional Pad See Ew recipe (which uses dark soy sauce, too!). Want to know what is the difference between light soy sauce and dark soy sauce? Read on!
Next up, I’d recommend having a dark soy sauce in your cupboard. It’s less salty than your regular light soy sauce, and has a darker, more intense colour. Because it’s been aged for longer, it has a richer flavour, and therefore adds more depth to a dish. I find it’s a good one for marinades, or when you want that deep brown hue adding to a dish. Try it in my Soy Sauce Chicken & Noodles.
The difference between light soy sauce and dark soy sauce is mainly what they are used for. Light soy sauce is saltier and used more for flavour, and dark soy sauce is generally thicker, less salty and slightly sweeter than light soy sauce, so ideal for adding colour.
I favour Japanese soy sauce when cooking dishes that typically originate there.