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Aug 9, 2008 07:23 PM

A shoyu/soy sauce question for all of you Asian cooks out there

I'm slowly working my way toward making some dongpo rou (, so I went to the market to pick up some Shao Xing wine, and while I was there I also picked up a couple of bottles of Koon Chun thin soy sauce and double black soy sauce. My question is this: should they be refrigerated after opening?

My primary experience is with Kikoman and Yamasa shoyu, and they will lose tons of flavor if not kept refrigerated. The Koon Chung labels don't offer a clue! Any help is appreciated! Thanks.

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  1. Hmm..I don't put mine in the fridge. Growing up in S.E.Asia, we just leave their soy sauce in the pantry or kitchen countertop (away from sunlight). But, I can't vouch for other type of soy sauce (I've never use Kikoman or Yamasa) - since I am sure some of their ingredients or process of making are slightly different. :) Hope it helps a bit!

    6 Replies
    1. re: ceciel

      It does, and thanks. But I also suspect that a bottle of soy sauce didn't last nearly as long in your childhood kitchen as it does in mine! My meal planning is like playing a game, "Where In The World is Caroline Eating Tonight?" If the indecision lasts too long, I sometimes give up and just have peanut butter and jelly! '-)

      1. re: Caroline1

        Haha. That's just too hilarious!! :) But you are right though, I cook almost everyday, and even that, a bottle of soy lasts me way way much longer than the same size bottle in my mom or grandmas' kitchen! Everything with soy! ;) Out of topic here, but we even eat boiled, half boiled, sunny side up, scrambled eggs with soy! Not salt. My husband thought it was weird, until I got him converted, that is. Double black soy is yum!

        1. re: ceciel

          I'll have to give that a try. I usually use the green Tobaso liberally in my omlettes. But beware. Green Tobasco is addictive.

          1. re: ceciel

            My house too! I used to be so embarrassed to eat eggs with my friends after sleepovers. Also potatoes are good with soy.

            1. re: ceciel

              Exactly...that's egg foo yung. Great to add greens and scallions to eggs, top with soy. yum.

              1. re: ceciel

                We love poached soy sauce eggs up at our house, we add a little water and a tiny bit of sugar to the soy sauce.

                As for the soy sauce question, I guess we use it often so we never have an issue putting it in the lower cabinet (dark, light & regular) but I have used to have the same issue with rice vinegar going off, or just changing flavor (film at top, slight change in color, or scent) so I now keep it in the fridge, and lasts just fine now. maybe this might work best for your soy?

          2. Hey Caroline, I don't refrigerate any of my soy sauces. Oops, take that back, the one that I use for serving at the table, a small bottle with holes...that one yes. But for years I've never refrigerated the big bottles. I haven't noticed any flavor loss, or maybe I should pay closer attention. Yummy stuff the double black, very rich and flavorful. Kikkoman is so light anyway, I guess that I expect that its not going to be a full bodied soy.

            I use Kikoman,because I can get a big jug at Costco. I much prefer Pearl River.

            3 Replies
            1. re: chef chicklet

              I don't think I've ever seen Pearl River, let alone tried it. If your refrigerator bottle of Kikoman isn't refilled from the big bottle, try a taste test. If it is, try the taste test the next time you buy a new bottle. I can really taste the difference. Similar to wine, but it holds true under refrigeration MUCH longer!

              I only use Yamasa as a "finishing" shoyu because it looses its unique flavor in cooking. Kikoman stays pretty true. This will be my first home experience with Chinese soy sauce Or it will be if I can ever find really great pork belly for the dongpo rou. '-)

              1. re: Caroline1

                Never mind the Kikoman taste test! I've been using it for over thirty years, and obviously haven't kept reading the labels. It now contains sodium benzoate as a preservative. DAMN! And the Yamasa uses alcohol, which is better than sb, but still... <sigh> But the Chinese stuff *IS* preservative free. Gonna have to do some shoyu label reading next time I'm at May Hua market! :-(

                1. re: Caroline1

                  May Hua (and every other self-respecting Asian market) should stock Pearl River Bridge; it's the quintessential Chinese style (open fermented) light soy sauce.

                  The PRB gold label "Superior Light Soy Sauce" is very good, but I much prefer the purple label "Premium Light Soy Sauce." Ingredients are water, soya beans, wheat flour, and salt. The bottle says to refrigerate after opening. The only problem is that not every place carries the purple label.

              2. Hi Caroline1,

                Look at the ingredients of the soy sauce and see if it has preservatives. If it doesn't, then it is better to put it in the fridge. If it does, you probably don't have to do so. Most of kikoman and yamasa shoyu do not have preservative, so it is better to put them in the fridge. Chinese soy sauce tends to have preservatives in it, so it may not be necessary.

                1 Reply
                1. re: kobetobiko

                  BINGO! So why didn't I think of that? Thank you soooo much! It makes sense. Both of the Chinese soy sauces I bought are preservaive free (Koon Chun brand from Hong Kong). The thin soy sauce only contains water, soy beans, salt and wheat flour. The double black has that plus molasses.

                  For my next trick, I want a refrigerator with five or six of those slide-out verticle pantry shelves that are only one bottle wide. If I got all of the jars and bottles out of my refriterator, boy, would I have more room for food...! '-)

                2. I use the small Pearl River brands of Soy Sauce and I don't refridgerate. Since the salt content of soy sauce is so high I guess I don't worry about it. If you can get your hands on Pearl River they are great. Dark soy sauce is for color, light is for flavor. Were you able to get a decent brand of Shao Xing? Preferably Pagoda brand. The cheapest has very little alcohol and added salt and is not really even Shao Xing. It should be at least 16% alcohol with no added salt. Let us know how your Dong Po turns out!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: scoopG

                    The Shao Xing is Lily brand, 15% alcohol, and cheap, therefore I'm sure not the best brand. It is salted (for cooking) and I grabbed it because I wasn't sure what the shelf life would be for a more expensive "drinking wine." Figured wine is wine and what doesn't work for a Burgundy shouldn't work for a Shao Xing.

                    As for the Dong Po, I'm beginning to wonder if I'm EVER going to get to taste it. I refuse to go to all that trouble without a really great slab of pork belly with at least three luscious layers of fat cushioning two seductive layers of lean. Nothing I've looked at so far has been singing the Lorelei song. <sigh>

                  2. I have never put any type of soy sauce in the fridge and I've never had soy sauce go bad on me, despite the fact that on occasion, a bottle will last me a year. I buy all types, including Kikoman. I don't know if extensive 'aging' in an open bottle changes the flavor, but I do know that it doesn't go bad in the sense that it would make you ill to eat it for a very, very long time. Salt is a natural preservative.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: cimui

                      I didn't mean "go bad" in the sense of not being safe to eat. Time was when Kikoman (which now contains sodium benzoate as a preservative) was a naturally brewed preservative free shoyu, and if not refrigerated the flavor changed and was simply not as pleasing and full flavored as when newly opened or kept in the refrigerator to preserve that original flavor.

                      I think kobetobiko provided the best answer: if it contains preservatives don't worry about refrigeration, if it's preservative free then refrigerate after opening. Thanks.

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        ah, fair enough, caroline. sorry, i didn't read your posting as closely as i ought. i do think you (and kobetobiko) are right that some brands seem to become fainter tasting after a time and that it would make sense if this were related to lack of preservatives.

                        good luck with the dongpo rou. the pics with that recipe look delectable!

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          if you're interested in using kikkoman withough sodium benzoate, try buying the imported version from japan at a japanese or korean grocery store. i buy mine at one of these groceries and it has alcohol versus the sodium benzoate. (i would assume alcohol is a byproduct of the natural fermentation process and not an additive.) the bottles mainly have japanese writing and come in plastic bottles instead of glass. i don't refrigerate it and it tastes fine.

                          1. re: trishyb

                            Thank you! I'm on my way!

                            hmmmm... My bottle of Oregon-brewed Yamasa implies alcohol as an added ingrendient with "(to preserve freshenss)" following "alcohol," then also adds the same warning on the label as Kikkoman: Refrigerate after opening.

                            Both of the Hong Kong brewed Koon Chun soy sauces are naturally brewed and preservative free, but neither says to refrigerate after opening, unless it's in Chinese. Which is why I formulated my original question never imagining I was stirring up such a snake's nest!

                            Guess I shoulda known Americans never read labels or directions. I know I don't. Hey, my kids are 39 and 40, and I've STILL got a bag full of nuts, bolts, screws, clamps, and doo-hickeys left over from assembling their toys on Christmas Eve when they were little! What's a bottle of warm soy sauce among friends, right?

                            Next time you buy a fresh bottle, grab a spoon and do a side by side tasting to see how much the flavor has migrated in the opened and stored at room temp sauce.

                            1. re: Caroline1

                              I just purchased the Koon Chun double black soy sauce this week, and my bottle says refrigerate after opening, if that helps.

                              1. re: smtucker

                                Very interesting! I have the same brand, and it says nothing about refrigeration in English, so I gotta ask! Do you read Chinese?

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  Not a single character. This is written in English. I admit though, my fridge isn't big enough to hold all the soy sauces I now own, so they live in the pantry.

                                  1. re: smtucker

                                    Then obviously my bottle is older than yours since it has no such instruction in English. Lots in Chinese with no translation though! Thanks.