Soy sauce has become a ubiquitous kitchen staple. I keep a bottle in my fridge at all times—it’s one of the few things I restock before it runs out. Its applications are many—like, sooo many. After all, home cooks have had about 2,000 years to dream up novel uses for the sauce (it originated in East Asia way back in the Western Han dynasty). Soy sauce is made from a combination of fermented soybeans, roasted grain, brine, and mold and lends its trademark umami to any dish, a bold and brackish rounding out of flavors.
Since its creation, the sauce has spread across the Asian continent (and to the rest of the world), developing many iterations along the way. When most English-written recipes call for soy sauce, they’re referring to light soy sauce, which is used in a lot of Chinese cooking. But there’s also tamari, shoyu, kecap manis—soy by-products that bear distinct flavor profiles, preparations, usages, and cultural contexts. Read how Pat Tanumihardja, community member and cookbook author, parses the differences between varieties.
Soy sauce figures well into sauce mixes for braises, drizzled over simple rice dishes, whisked into salad dressing. It lifts and complicates and provides a welcome foil to oil’s heaviness. I’m also a sucker for dipping anything directly into it. Mixed with Shaoxing wine and toasted sesame oil, soy sauce joins a holy trifecta that can bring your weeknight braises, soups, and stir-frys to new heights. For more specific inspiration, here are a variety of uses for soy sauce, that vivid and versatile kitchen favorite.
What's your go-to use for soy sauce? Tell us about your favorites in the comment section below.
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