Favorite soy? I've always been a Kikkoman guy for all purpose use, but I picked up a bottle of Pearl River Bridge the other day.
Boy, do I regret it! No roundness of flavor at all, just overwhelmingly salty.
What are some good brands?
I just saw a Cooks Illustrated show where they ranked Eden's brand of organic soy sauce first, Tamari soy sauce 2nd, and Kikoman 3rd.
Pearl River Bridge is an excellent Chinese soy producer. It makes different varieties of soy, chief among them being dark or light. If you want authentic Chinese cooking, you need to know the differences and use them accordingly. Americans are much more accustomed to Japanese soy or tamari sauce.
I love the Pearl River Bridge dark soy sauce. It's definitely a different flavor, almost sweet and licorice-like, and very thick. I use it mostly in Chinese marinades.
I use Pearl River a lot, both light and dark. They are both excellent. I find Kikkoman bland and generic.
Maybe I got a bad bottle, but the Pearl River I bought (light) was very thin and dark, and tasted almost only of salt. I did a tasting between PRB and La Choy (among the blandest american supermarket varieites) and the La Choy came out on top. Not nearly as salt, with just a bit of richness that the PRB lacked.
As for Kikkoman (and maybe this is just a general characteristic of Japanese-style soys), the flavor is salty, sweet, and a bit fermented, winey, almost. It seems much more complex.
Is it possible that I just got a "skunked" or "corked" bottle of soy? Should I try again?
Maybe this is one of those things that have 2 (or perhaps more) camps: Chinese v Japanese soy sauces.
It's a combination of preference, nostalgia, familiarity, what we've learned, etc. I don't think one is necessarily better than the other, it's just preference.
I too prefer Kikkoman (lite) for that fermented taste you mentioned. I'll use Chinese soy sauce for Chinese dishes and Kikkoman for everything else.
Sounds like the usual excellent light soy sauce from PRB. That's how it should be. And it has its uses just that way:
You should try PRB dark soy for contrast.
I also like Japanese tamari sauce. But each type of sauce is appropriate in different circumstances. To put it another way, "Soy sauce" is no more generic than "BBQ sauce".