Today: It's time to promote that bottle of soy sauce in your refrigerator door to a starring role in your weeknight dinner rotation.
When takeout is lacking an extra kick, our go-to for upping the flavor is a shake of soy sauce. Even a teaspoon can add umami to nearly any dish -- but don't forget that its versatility extends far beyond Chinese order-in. Light soy sauce pairs well with a variety of ingredients including peanuts, citrus, and vinegars, which makes it the ideal base for marinades. Plus, most proteins like tofu and chicken absorb soy sauce quickly; with minimal time and effort, that weeknight chicken breast can be infinitely more attractive. Here are a few of our favorite dishes that use soy sauce-based marinades:
The best barbecue sauces are sweet, salty, and a little acidic. The saltiness in this dish comes from soy sauce, which is combined into a marinade with tomato sauce, olive oil, and spices, along with maple syrup and molasses for sweetness and apple cider vinegar for acidity. Raw tempeh sits in the mixture overnight so that it can fully absorb the sweet and tangy marinade.
This dish makes putting a fresh and satisfying vegetable side on the dinner table effortless -- even on a weeknight. The night before, combine soy sauce, cilantro, rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil, garlic, and peeled ginger in a blender, then allow the eggplant to marinate in it overnight. When you're ready, place the eggplant into a microwave for 10 minutes to steam it and infuse all of the flavors from the marinade -- it's that easy.
This simple stir-fry recipe pairs soy sauce with peanuts for an interpretation on a traditional Chinese dish. Start with 3/4 cup of soy sauce, then add Shaoxing wine, rice vinegar, molasses, lemon or lime juice, and toasted sesame oil, then cook it with the tofu in a wok until it reduces to a desired thickness.
Chances are high that you already have all of the components of the marinade for this riff on store-bought orange chicken in your pantry. Whisk together soy sauce, fresh orange juice, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, vinegar, brown sugar, and spices, then pour it over the chicken breast and allow it to marinate for an hour before cooking in a skillet or wok. Serve over rice so you don't miss a drop.
Inspired by Thai night markets, this marinade combines several traditional Southeast Asian ingredients like soy sauce, garlic, ginger, rice wine, white pepper, and five-spice powder. Even though the chicken are battered and fried, the marinade's flavor is maintained in every bite.
Our friends at Kikkoman are preparing for one of the tastiest holidays on the Chinese calendar, Chinese New Year, with dishes inspired by soy sauce. What are you planning on making for Chinese New Year next week? Tell us in the comments below!
Photos by James Ransom and Mark Weinberg
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).