Let me start by saying that apparently I have long pinky fingers. What does this have to do with soy sauce? Whenever I go to type the “O” I hit “P” and end up spelling it spy sauce.
What is soy sauce?
It actually does have another spelling, soya sauce, but in the states is known as soy sauce and it probably one of the most widely used condiments and ingredients in many different styles of cooking not just Asian cuisine.
It is made by fermenting soybeans using a process called hydrolyzation, which breaks them down using acid. Soy sauce is considered to be an acid and a salt for cooking purposes. This releases sugar and helps to develop the deep brown color. However, some soy sauces also contain brown food coloring, check the label!
Aged soy sauces can take months to ferment while processed versions can take only days. You can also get flavored sauces. I love using this Mushroom Flavored soy, it is rich and thick, more like the Japanese version.
Light vs. Dark
Light soy sauce is the thin, brown liquid that most Americans refer to as regular soy sauce, but light is not necessarily low sodium. Make sure you look for low sodium and that will also be light (usually a green bottle).
Dark soy sauce has added molasses after brewing which thickens, adds layers of flavor and also gives a sweet aftertaste.
Tamari is another option, but sometimes not seen as a soy sauce since it has a different name. It is unique because it is made strictly with soybeans and no wheat or other grains. Tamari is described as have a clean, straightforward and single-noted flavor.
What does Soy Sauce Taste Like?
It is best described as a rich savory sauce with salty and umami flavors. However, depending on where you eat it, the exact flavors and texture can be very different.
In Japan, for instance, it is much thicker, like a syrup, and less salty. You only need a slight dab rather than a whole drench, like we would do with sushi in the states.
The short answer is to use it anywhere you would salt or even acid. A little can go a long way, but if you are using a milder version, you might need a little more.
Soy Sauce Substitutions
There are many reasons to need a substitute, but the main ones are you ran out or need a gluten free option.
My favorite subs are Worcestershire sauce, beef stock or bouillon (if bouillon make it extra potent), coconut aminos, or liquid aminos.
Tastes and correct for salt and/or sugar. Use Kosher salt sparingly or brown sugar to correct seasoning.
Storage & Freezing
Unopened soy sauce is shelf stable and can be kept in a cool, dark place.
After opening, store in the fridge. It doesn’t start to degrade in flavor until about a year and since it is packed with salt, is virtually immune from developing bacteria and other beasts.
It is not recommend to freeze soy sauce because of the high salt content, but since it is shelf and fridge stable for such long periods of time, you really shouldn’t need to.