Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Apr 16, 2008 10:01 PM

"Lite", "Light", or Regular or "Dark"

Can someone please explain to me the meanings of these Chinese cooking condiments. Lite or Light Soy Sauce. Kylie Kwong recipe directions contain light soy sauce and then dark soy sauce in same recipe. Is there an actual "lite" s.s. or does it mean regular soy sauce and then Tamari as the dark soy sauce. It could be that there is a lighter version of soy souce, and the regular soy sauce is dark and should be used. Also, I cannot find the red chilli's that are always used in her and other Chinese recipes. Does anyone know the proper name for these? I know, alot of questions, and I hope they don't seem really dumb as I am just trying to start in the huge Chinese Culinary world. And then there's Black Fungus and Fermented Black Beans to try to find! Ugh! Any help would truly be greatly appreciated and I thank you in advance.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Chinese soy sauce (jiàngyóu/chǐyóu, 酱油/豉油) is primarily made from soybeans, with relatively low amounts of other grains. There are two main varieties:

    Light or fresh soy sauce ("shēngchōu"; 生抽): A thin (as in non-viscous), opaque, dark brown soy sauce. It is the main soy sauce used for seasoning, since it is saltier, but it also adds flavour. Since it is lighter in color, it does not greatly affect the color of the dish. The light soy sauce made from the first pressing of the soybeans is called tóuchōu (头抽 or 頭抽), which can be loosely translated as first soy sauce or referred to as premium light soy sauce. Touchōu is sold at a premium because, like extra virgin olive oil, the flavor of the first pressing is considered superior. An additional classification of light soy sauce, shuānghuáng (雙璜), is double-fermented to add further complexity to the flavour. These latter two more delicate types are usually for dipping.
    Dark/old soy sauce ("lǎochōu"; 老抽) : A darker and slightly thicker soy sauce that is aged longer and contains added molasses to give it its distinctive appearance. This variety is mainly used during cooking since its flavour develops under heating. It has a richer, slightly sweeter, and less salty flavour than light soy sauce. Dark soy sauce is partly used to add color and flavour to a dish.

    1. be very careful with the terms "lite" and "light" - they're NOT interchangeable. in the case of soy sauce, "light" refers to color, while "lite" means reduced sodium.