Shoulda, coulda, woulda.
When I asked Ted to pick up some mushroom soy sauce at the local Chinese grocery store near his office, I shoulda showed him the nearly-empty bottle of shiitake mushroom soy in the fridge, so he coulda bought the same brand to replenish the supply. But, knowing Ted, he woulda purchased several versions to try anyway, because he is naturally curious. So now I have three different kinds of mushroom soy with which to experiment in The Perfect Pantry.
Soy sauce, made by fermenting boiled soybeans, ground roasted wheat or barley, and a starter mold (koji), comes in two basic varieties: light and dark. Dark soy is aged much longer, and often caramel or molasses are added to yield a brownish-black color and thicker consistency.
Considered a dark soy (because there is no category called "dark-ish"), mushroom soy is soy sauce infused with the essence of straw mushrooms, or sometimes shiitake mushrooms. It adds a rich, earthy flavor to cooked dishes. The sauce tastes strongly of the mushroom used to make it, which is why I prefer the shiitake mushroom soy; I just like those mushrooms better.
At $3.00 or less for a bottle, you can experiment in your own kitchen to find the taste you like. Substitute mushroom soy for dark soy as a cooking sauce or a finishing sauce (sprinkled on the top of a dish after the cooking is completed), in recipes for beef, eggplant, chicken, mushrooms (of course!), and other dishes where the richness of the mushroom flavor can shine.
Beef and broccoli stir fry
Mother of my friend Kent, Mrs. Leung worked for many years at our local Asian market. This recipe serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as part of a banquet-style meal, and can be doubled easily.
1/2 lb flank steak, sliced thinly
2-1/2 tsp arrowroot
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp light soy sauce
Pinch of black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp shallots, chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cups broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp mushroom soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
4 Tbsp peanut oil for frying
In a bowl, marinate the beef with 1 tsp arrowroot, 1 Tbsp oil, 1 tsp light soy sauce and a pinch of black pepper. Heat 2 Tbsp peanut oil in a wok. Stir fry garlic and shallots for 5 seconds. Add onion, stir for 5 seconds, and add the beef. Stir for 15 seconds, then remove from wok with a slotted spoon or strainer. Add 2 Tbsp fresh oil to the wok and heat. Stir in the broccoli and cook for 1 minute (add a few tsps of water to help cook the broccoli). When broccoli is almost done, add the beef, oyster sauce, mushroom soy sauce and sugar. Stir 1-2 minutes until cooked through. In a small bowl, mix remaining arrowroot with 1 Tbsp water. Stir into wok, a little at a time, to thicken the sauce. Serve hot with steamed rice.
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