One of my favorite Asian pantry ingredients, in a post updated from the archives, with new recipe, photos and links.
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 Kikkoman reduced-sodium Japanese-style soy sauce. In addition, I keep mushroom soy in the refrigerator (a good option for vegetarians). Though I don't use them often, I have black soy, tamari, and kecap manis, too.
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.
3 Tbsp dark soy sauce
3 Tbsp sake
3 Tbsp honey or brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled, left whole
1 lb large (21-25) shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 scallions, thinly sliced on an angle, for garnish
In a small sauce pan, combine soy sauce, sake, honey, garlic and ginger. Simmer for 10 minutes, until the honey or sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
When you're ready to cook, heat the grill or broiler. Place shrimp on the grill (or sheet pan), and brush top side with the sauce. Cook for 2 minutes, turn, and brush the other side with sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Serve individual shrimp on small skewers or toothpicks, garnished with scallion slices.
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