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Dark soy sauce (Recipe: shrimp teriyaki)

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.


Shrimp teriyaki

Serves 6.


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.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Teriyaki tofu wraps
Grilled chile-lime-ponzu chicken
Beef and broccoli stir fry
Ginger cabbage salad
Salmon fried rice

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Dark soy sauce is one of my favourite ingredients, too! And your shrimp teriyaki looks so cute and delicious. Defenitely a party favourite!

And don't forget the 5-spice braised short ribs...

I also have dark soy (and double dark) in my pantry, but I wonder if, in a pinch, you could just mix shoya with a little molasses for the same effect?

I've actually found choosing a strong soy sauce kind of frustrating - the nearby grocery has a fair selection, but I always seem to get either a medium/light flavor (Japanese) or an unpleasantly too-strong one (most of the Chinese ones to hand). Can't seem to get a strong one that I like...

I'm partial to Amoy, too.
Hey what a gorgeous photo! That green is stunning.

the abc soy isn't dark and thick enough? Yikeee! I'm going to give the chicken wing recipe a whirl

Oh yes, I love dark soy. I didn't realize it was less salty than light. I agree, have both on hand. And pass the shrimp! It looks great.

I've been using more soy for stir fries with the Asian greens I've gotten at the CSA this summer. It's just about time for a refill, so I'll look for this. The shrimp looks devine!

I don't think I've ever cooked with this. It sounds great though, and I'm thinking I could try this recipe with agave too!

Using soy sauce is one of my favorite ways to season my food. I use it in salad dressings and sometimes a couple of drops here and there instead of salt. I just love the flavor. Thanks for a great recipe. I love shrimp and I love dark soy so the two are a perfect match.

Loved this post, very well written.

I just took a Japanese cookbook out from the library and every time soy sauce is mentioned, they say "shoyu". I noticed you wrote that it's a lighter soy sauce. Would my regular soy sauce that I have on hand work for these recipes, or do I have to get shoyu?

As usual, very interesting!

I think you read my mind. I was thinking of having some kind of teriyaki something tonight - looks like shrimp may be it!
Counting the days until next week. So excited to meet you :)

Thank you for the link! I hope some of your readers try out my noodles. :)

I have never seen or heard of dark soy. I'm going to have to see if I can get it.

Lydia, my only complaint here is why isn't there a platter of these skewers? I'd like a few myself!

Anh, I've never met anyone who doesn't love teriyaki.

Julia, I've never tried that, but can't imagine why it wouldn't work. The molasses would provide viscosity and sweetness to balance the soy.

Paul, it's absolutely a matter of personal taste. Same with fish sauce -- some taste vile to me, others just right. Takes a lot of taste-testing to find the brands you like. (And taste testing is not really a chore, is it?)

Aimee, thanks so much. I'm really trying to improve my photography and appreciate all encouragement!

Milton, the ABC is actually thicker than this dark soy, which is more the consistency of regular soy sauce. You know me-- why have one pantry ingredient when you can have two or three?! But they are different. Try them side by side and you'll see.

Natashya, sometimes I'm in the mood for a bowl of steamed rice with some dark soy drizzled on top. Don't know why, but it's the ultimate comfort food.

TW, you'll definitely want to try this sweeter soy sauce with the dark Asian greens, perhaps in combination with a light or reduced-sodium sauce for balance.

Kalyn, I've made this with agave and it's great. Not quite as viscous as with honey or sugar, but I use the darker agave in teriyaki sauce all the time.

Easy, I like soy sauce in salad dressings, too, especially if the salad has chunks of salmon or shrimp in it.

Meal Planner, any soy sauce would work well in this sauce. Taste and adjust with more sugar or honey, if needed.

Kristen, I never need to have my arm twisted to have teriyaki something for dinner. Bet your kids love it, too.

Bruleeblog, I hope so too.

Noble Pig, dark soy isn't easy to find in the grocery store, but any Asian market should carry it. (I can always send a care package from RI, too!)

Peter, I must confess that there was a platter of these skewers. The ones in the photo are all that survived a room full of eaters!

I love teriyaki seafood, it's one of my favorite ways to cook it! I also use the dark soy sauce quite often, the sweet/salty combination is addictive!

Soy sauce..let me count the ways. I have two dark soys in my pantry, the mushroom flavored one is my favorite and i use it in stir frys.

I've always wondered about dark soy sauce—sounds good! Will head to Chinatown and stock up.

Jason, I've never met anyone who doesn't love the sweet and salty combination of teriyaki sauce. I like to make my own, so it doesn't get too sweet.

Veron, I have dark and double dark -- and kecap manis, and mushroom soy, and reduced-sodium soy.... am I a bit addicted? I guess so!

Maggie, don't you just love shopping in Chinatown? I do.

Is that dinner tonight?
I believe so.
Thank you very kindly Lydia.

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