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.
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.
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
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.