Syrupy where Japanese soy sauce is thin, caramelly and slightly smoky where shoyu is salty, kecap manis is, by many accounts, the most popular sauce in Indonesia. In "History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Southeast Asia," soy expert William Shurtleff reported that kecap manis accounted for 90% of the country's total soy sauce production as of 2010.
Add it to marinades, stir-fries, soups, barbecue sauces, glazes, or anywhere else you'd normally use maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, or agave to counter the saltiness of Japanese or Chinese soy sauce. Nigella Lawson, who describes it as "treacle-ish soy sauce," recommends replacing 1 tablespoon of kecap manis in her recipe for Thai noodles with cinnamon and prawns with 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce sauce mixed with 1 tablespoon soft dark brown sugar if you can't find it.
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But kecap manis adds a layer of flavor (as well as a sticky richness) that a hacked version does not. Unlike other Asian soy sauces, it's frequently flavored with star anise, garlic, ginger, galangal, or chile.
Mix together equal amounts of soy sauce and palm sugar (or brown sugar or molasses) and add any flavorings (sliced garlic or ginger, dried chiles, star anise, curry leaves).
Bring to a boil, then simmer until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is viscous (10 to 15 minutes).
Let cool completely, during which time the mixture will further thicken. Store in the fridge.
Kecap manis is used as both a cooking ingredient and a tableside condiment, and I'm happy eating it poured over a bowl of plain rice. But for something more elaborate, use your store-bought or homemade kecap manis to make...
Nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) or mie goreng (fried noodles), two dishes in which kecap manis is a primary flavor
Pad see ew, using the kecap manis as a substitute for Thai black soy sauce
A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.