Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: There are as many varieties of soy sauce as there are ways to cook with it -- here's what you need to know.
A quick glance down the soy sauce aisle of an Asian market can send even the most seasoned cook into a tizzy. But don’t fret! With a little know-how, soy sauce is easy to comprehend -- as are the many ways to cook with it. In today’s global kitchens, its uses extend well beyond Asian cooking. Everyone should have a bottle in their pantry.
Soy sauce was first invented by the Chinese over 2,500 years ago; it is made by fermenting soybeans with wheat, brine, and mold. Now, just about every Asian culture, from Japanese to Thai to Filipino, has its own unique version. These are the most common types:
More: Want to know more about fermented soy? Here's the low-down on Miso.
How to Choose a Soy Sauce
Regardless of provenance, high-quality soy sauce is naturally brewed, with no added alcohol, salt, or sugar. Poorer-quality soy sauces tend to be produced by hydrolysis and will contain additives and preservatives.
More: Now that you have soy sauce, it's time to make a stir-fry.
The most versatile soy sauces are Chinese light soy sauce and Japanese-style shoyu (or tamari, if you are gluten-free). Using them as a base, you can make sweet or dark soy sauce by adding brown sugar or molasses; or imitate Toyomansi (a Filipino soy condiment spiked with calamansi juice) by stirring in a spritz of lime.
A note on storage: Soy sauce is shelf-stable when stored in a cool, dark place. If you only use it occasionally, buy a small bottle and refrigerate it.
What's your favorite way to use soy sauce? Tell us in the comments!
Photos by James Ransom