Why soy sauce just might be the greatest seasoning. Ever.
Soy sauce is salty, sweet, and savoury. With a note of bitterness and a touch of sour it activates all of our taste buds to create a balanced range of sensations.
Used in place of salt, it brings all of these other elements into play. Use to enhance flavours and create a sense of depth. Embrace the unique and complex full-bodied flavour. Start simple, switching it out with salt, and then get creative.
See where the magic of soy sauce will take you.
All about soy sauce
Thousands of years ago, in Ancient China, they used to make a fermented soy bean paste similar to the miso we know today. At some point it was discovered that the liquid from this could be used too, and soy sauce was born. Use spread across the East, where regional variations were developed, and eventually spread to the West. It is now one of the most widely used condiments in the world. But are we getting the most from our soy sauce? Do we liberally splash it on anything we regard as Asian and think no more about it?
In the East, they take soy sauce very seriously indeed. Hundreds of variations exist, each as subtly different as fine wine or olive oil. Only a handful of traditional producers are left, creating complex soy sauce that takes years to perfect. A simple preparation of soy beans, wheat, salt and water, fermented with a starter of micro-organisms, it is time and nature that result in the astonishing depth of flavour in soy sauce.
In Japan and China they both categorise soy sauce as light or dark. Light soy sauce is thinner and saltier, whilst dark soy sauce is thick, rich and sweet. Standard soy sauce is somewhere in between. Japanese soy sauce is lighter and less salty in general.
A brief lesson in flavour
Soy sauce delivers the full range of taste sensations. In technical terms taste is the broad physical sensations of salt, sweet, umami, bitter and sour. Flavour is all of the aromas that add the detailed nuances.
Used to draw out and enhance complex flavours, soy sauce is a masterclass in seasoning by itself. Not only does it trigger all of the taste sensations, but has a complex flavour profile of its own. The aim of all carefully considered dishes is to balance the tastes and enhance the flavours of the ingredients.
Soy sauce is salty, sweet, savoury, bitter, and sour, in varying degrees. Saltiness magnifies flavour, working in tandem with umami that makes the mouth water and makes food feel fuller, richer and more satisfying. Sourness brightens the palate, clarifying and defining flavours, whilst sweetness rounds everything out. Bitter flavours add a little interest. A sense of intrigue. Together, they create balance. A satisfying sense of completeness.
10 things you can do with soy sauce
Make a marinade
Marinade chicken, fish, vegetables or tofu. Anything you like really. Keep it Asian inspired with aromatics such as garlic and ginger, or just use the soy sauce in place of salt.
Mix a dressing
Mix up a dressing for salad or roasted vegetables. Try 3 parts oil, 2 parts low sodium soy sauce, to 1 part vinegar.
Reduce a glaze
Mix 200ml soy sauce, with 100ml red wine, and 1 tbsp honey. Place in a small saucepan over a medium heat and simmer to reduce by half.
Add to desserts
Use instead of salt in a salted caramel sauce, or add an extra dimension to your chocolate brownies. Try adding a dash of sauce sauce to your affogato.
Enhance poaching liquid
Add a quarter cup to your poaching liquid for depth of flavour.
Mix soy with rice vinegar and sugar to create a simple pickling liquid for cucumber, carrot, onion or even hard boiled eggs.
Deepen your braise
Add to your beef stew or braised short ribs for deep meaty flavour. A tiny piece of star anise won’t be detected but will bring out even more meaty flavour.
Super savoury your sauce
Add a tablespoon to your homemade tomato sauce for sweetness and savoury depth
Brush onto ingredients
Brush onto simple grilled meats or vegetables, yakitori style.
Give guts to your gravy
Add a splash to your gravy for rich body and colour.
This Article was reproduced with permission from an Opera Foods article:- “Why soy sauce just might be the greatest seasoning. Ever.”