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June 7, 2007

Dark soy sauce (Recipe: sweet-salty-spicy sushi sauce)

When the temperature soars above 90 degrees, as it did last weekend here in Rhode Island, I don't want to cook, but I still want to eat. It's the end of Vegetable Sushi Week. Day Three: the soy sauce.

Darksoy

Yoda, the wise jedi master who seemed to know everything about everything, taught us all about the dark side, but I'll bet he didn't know that there's also a dark side in The Perfect Pantry.

There's dark chocolate, dark chili powder and, occasionally, dark ale.

And always a bottle or two of dark soy sauce.

One of the fundamental condiments of much Asian cooking, soy sauce is made by fermenting boiled soybeans with roasted wheat or barley and a starter mold, known as koji. After the mixture ferments for a few days, a brine of sea salt and water are added, and the sauce is allowed to mature for six months or so. Then it's pasteurized, and becomes light (shoyu) soy sauce, which is what I use as an everyday condiment.

Dark soy is aged much longer, and often caramel or molasses are added to yield a brownish-black color and thicker consistency. Because its dark color and stronger flavor can ruin some delicate dishes, it's used more for cooking, especially red-cooked dishes, than as a drizzle-on condiment. Dark soy tastes slightly sweeter (duh.... the added caramel) and less salty than light soy.

A well-stocked pantry should have both dark and light soy, as they're often combined in recipes to achieve the perfect balance of sweet and salty. I always have both, plus a reduced-sodium Japanese-style soy sauce made by Kikkoman. In addition, I keep mushroom soy in the refrigerator (a good option for vegetarians), and I'm planning to pick up some wheat-free soy sauce to have on hand for gluten-free cooking. Though I don't use them often, I have black soy, tamari, and kecap manis, too.

With dark soy on hand, you can have fun making pulled pork, fried vermicelli, tea-leaf eggs, stir-fried tofu with basil, sea bass with ginger and spring onions, General Tso's chicken, or this wacky recipe for Dr. Pepper Chicken Wings.

Find your own favorite brand of dark soy the old-fashioned way: taste! I'm partial to the Amoy brand, but I also like Pearl River Bridge. Don't shop by color alone; make sure the label says dark soy sauce.

Sweet-salty-spicy sushi sauce

For nori rolls or other sushi, there's nothing better than a bit of dipping sauce, but this also makes a wonderful dressing for cold noodles or pasta salad (thin with water to desired consistency). Makes 1/2 cup.

Ingredients

1/2 cup dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey, or more to taste
1/2 tsp wasabi sauce or wasabi paste, or more to taste
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger root

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, and shake well to combine. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

Comments

Glad you said dark soy sauce was mostly for cooking - I've been getting increasingly disappointed at the results when I pour it on noodles or rice, as it always seems overwhelming and too salty. Guess I need to start keeping a wider range of soy sauces around...

So how do you feel about kecap manis?

I make the same sauce (roughly) but with garlic instead of the wasabi. (My wife has an allergy to wasabi.)

Lydia, I love how you educate me about all these great ingredients. I had never even heard of dark soy sauce before! Now I feel like it's a must-buy. That sushi sauce sounds heavenly, not just for sushi, but for other dipping, as well.

oh no. Lydia, I´m sorry, but if I keep reading this blog, I´m going to have to move out of my apartment. There´s no way I can keep up this rate of condiment buying. Stop!

I have some of this, but haven't ever used it. I'm happy to read Kikkoman in your list of soy sauces, because that's the kind I use most of all. This is a topic I need to learn more about. Love coming here to learn new things!

I'm thinking this sauce would also make a great dipping sauce for grilled fish, wouldn't you say? And since I love wasabi so much, I'd have to put more!

After using mushroom soy sauce in a Ninecooks class I am a devoted fan -- as is my three year old son. He asks for it on plain pasta, on rice, and on toast (I draw line on this since I have yet to find a low sodium version.)

I erred in purchasing black soy a few months ago instead of dark soy which lead to some fun experimentation. I like the black soy for a beef stir fry and an ingredient in BBQ sauce. It is definately milder and sweeter than dark soy - but has its place in the pantry...

Dark soy sauce is indispensable in the kitchen! We use it practically in most chinese dishes, it really adds a lot of flavour to the dishes & makes great sauces with cornflour.:)

I remember that from when I lived in U.S.! I found some mushroom soy sauce in Spain that was wonderful but have not seen 'dark' here. Must keep looking!
The sushi sauce sounds wonderful!

ooh that sauc esounds yummy! i recently baught a bottle of sweet soy sauce, it was delicious on steaks, mmmm

I have the same bottle of dark soy sauce as yours! After fish sauce, soy sauce (light, dark and sweet)is something I just love to use. I learnt and developed one recipe for a chicken stew where all three types of soy sauce is used. It's really delicious!

Mushroom soy sauce sounds really, really good. I've never had it. This must change. Thanks for the tip.

Paul, I love kecap manis. I've just started keeping it in my pantry and exploring how to use it (i.e., stay tuned for a future post!). Dark soy drizzled on steamed rice is one of my comfort foods -- but more often I use the reduced-sodium soy for that, too.

Jerry, this would be great with garlic, too.

Genie, thanks! This is a great sauce on Chinese egg noodles or soba.

Ximena, now you know how my pantry got to be so stuffed -- I never think of myself as a condiment junkie, but maybe....

Kalyn, I do like mixing the Kikkoman and the dark soy, because it gives a good consistency without as much sodium as regular light soy. I'm with you on the wasabi, too -- more is better! It would be lovely with grilled fish.

Jessica, it's fun to do a soy sauce taste test, isn't it? The black soy is great, but it's a totally different product -- good for sauces where you might otherwise use Worcestershire. Nice that your three-year-old is a mushroom soy sauce aficionado!

Valentina, once I discovered dark soy, I've never been without it.

Katie, make sure it says "dark" on the label, not just that it looks dark in color in the bottle. That's the tricky part! Hope you can find it. If not, I'll be happy to send you a bottle.

Aria, the dark soy is sweeter than regular light soy sauce, but definitel not as sweet as the sweet (is is kecap manis that you bought?). So many variations!

Anh, your recipe sounds wonderful! Will you share? If you've posted about it, please let us know the link.

Susan, the mushroom soy really is lovely. It's easy to find in an Asian market.

I've had my bottle of dark soy for ages, I occasionally use it for tea eggs and red cooking. I think the brand I have is Pearl River. I always look for brewed soy sauce, I really dislike the stuff made with a whole bunch of additives and "caramel color".

I've been out of dark soy for oh, about 15 years. I keep trying to convince myself that it really doesn't matter and that I can get by with light, but you remind me why I am wrong. Really love your blog, Lydia!

One of the biggest crisis in my kitchen is to run out of soy sauce! It's a basic ingredient for me. And it was fun to discover the differences in light and dark versions. Boy--that Dr. pepper Chicken Wings recipe is certainly tempting. :):)

Mmmm...mushroom soy sauce? I haven't tried that one, yet. But I will be very soon. Soy sauce is so versatile; I just love it in salad dressings and in sauces for veggies and tofu.

Amy, Pearl River is delicious. I've never made tea eggs, but always wanted to try them.

Christine, thank you. I love your blog, too.

Sher, I thought the Dr. Pepper Chicken Wings would be a kick! I panic if I run out of soy sauce -- I use it so much.

Susan, mushroom soy is great -- very rich flavor. Lee Kum Kee makes a version that I see often in my Asian groceries.

What would we do without it?!

I like them all but especailly tamari and kecap manis, it's like Asian tomato ketchup a splogde here ane there is quite addictive.

I have a recipe marked for a General Tso's chicken dish. It sounds delicious.

Kelly-Jane, I do like kecap manis, and I love General Tso's chicken! If you post a recipe for it, please let us know.

Lydia, I haven't posted the 3 soy sauce chicken yet. Let me cook it again and write down the measurement...

Typically, chinese cuisine do not use dark soy. Usually its just a bottle of regular soy sauce & double black sauce which act as a thickener, adds color, and a tad of sweetness to any dish. ie. restaurant style lo mein, meat braise recipes and tea eggs.

Anh, thanks -- it does sound delicious.

MW, thank you for this great information. I haven't cooked with double black soy in a long time -- in fact, I don't often see it in the market. Now I am eager to compare the taste and really understand all of the soy sauces better.

Hey Lydia, long time no see! :) it's good to be back! Say, has this bottle been sitting around for some time, to get all that residue? haha, just teasing...

Please expand on your comment about mushroom soy and vegetarians. I'm a life-long vegetarian myself and assumed soy sauce had no animal by-products. Maybe you meant it's not vegan.

Shilpa, welcome back! I'm loving the photos of Thailand on your blog. Yep, this bottle has been in the pantry for a while -- and in the fridge, where the cold solidifies the residue on the bottle.

Leond, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Most soy sauces are vegetarian (read labels carefully to make sure there are no scary additives, especially in sauces that are hydrolized and not brewed), and most are vegan. The mushroom soy is a particularly good match for vegetarian dishes because it has a rich vegetable flavor. That's what I meant to say.

I am a big fan of Tamari soy sauce. Have you tried it? BTW- I've come across your blog before, and will link to it since mine is called "pantry permitting". /m

Maja, I love tamari and always have some in my pantry. I'm glad to know of your blog and will check it out immediately! Thanks for visiting today.

I discovered dark soy sauce "grand harvest" naturally brewed (big bottle)at the 99¢ only store.Marinade chicken quarters in the sauce full strength for 4-8 hours or longer in a zip lock and it completely penetrates the chicken to the bone and is amazing how good chicken can taste.Slow cook for 2-3 hours at 300° covered.Skin falls off revealing the most tender darkened soy chicken (skin turns almost black) and only cost a few bucks and so simple. I do it in a toaster oven.

John, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Your recipe sounds amazing -- do you add anything else to the marinade? I will definitely have to try this.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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