Soy sauce is one of the oldest condiments in the world, made with fermented soy beans and various other ingredients. There are countless varieties, what with the low sodium ones on the market now too but, here, we concentrate on the Chinese varieties and the three main types used in my kitchen and cooking school.
All these soy sauces are easily available in the big supermarkets in the UK. Failing that, if you have access to an Oriental store, you will definitely find them there. Then of course, there is always the online version!
The above image was used on one of my shows on on YouTube, Savour the Flavour.
Light Soy Sauce
Lighter in colour and viscosity, light soy sauce is obtained from the first pressing and is, by far, the most common soy sauce used in Chinese cooking. It is saltier and used much as one would use salt as a flavour enhancer and, of course, in dipping sauces. When a Chinese recipe calls for soy sauce, with no other description, it’s safe to assume that you want this lighter variety. This is a must have condiment on our dinner table, my children’s favourite.
Substitute: salt or fish sauce.
Dark Soy Sauce
Fermented for a longer period and generally having molasses or a similarly sweet ingredient added, the dark soy sauce has a sweet and salty taste to it, is darker in appearance and has a richer texture. It’s used in cooking as well as a condiment, and is quite often served up in a little bowl with some chopped chillies and onions.
Substitute: Tamari (Japanese version) is perhaps the closest possible substitute. Tamari should be available widely these days.
Sweet Soy Sauce
Commonly known as Kicap Manis in Malay, here’s a little impromptu Malay lesson!
Kicap = soy sauce
Manis = sweet
As its name suggests, kicap manis is sweet and almost syrupy in texture because of the addition of large amounts of palm sugar. It is commonly used in Malay and Indonesian cooking as a flavour enhancer as well as cooking ingredient.
Substitute: dark soy sauce with a little sugar, whichever kind.