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Soy sauce

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  • ER2 Oct 10, 2012 07:40 PM
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Are all brands of soy sauce more or less the same or are some considered better than others? I ask because a recipe I want to try calls for soy sauce so, before going out and buying a bottle, I'd welcome any advice on what I should purchase. TIA.

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  1. all brands are very different. Kikkomon is Japanese and probably the most famous. Some people will say its not the best, but for general purpose its fine, and its what is used the most by everyone I have met in Japan. A lot of people also like Lee Kum Kee which is Chinese I believe. Whatever you do, stay away from VH1. I always have 2-3 different Kikkomon soy sauces in my fridge at any time.

    The recipe you have might also change which one you would use, if its a Chinese dish or Japanese dish for example.

    1. If you go to a Chinese grocery, you will find some soys intended for cooking only. These are darker and thicker than table soy found in ordinary supermarkets.

      1. Similarish inquiry - any recommendations for a good brand of dark soy sauce? I really enjoy seared tuna and usually use an Asian marinade with soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, etc. I usually use light soy sauce but thought I might try dark instead. Would this work? At H Mart last week, I was very overwhelmed with the selection and did not actually see any products which were "dark soy sauce."

        12 Replies
        1. re: fldhkybnva

          Barbara Tropp (The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking) recommends Koon Chun brand, which she writes has a red, blue, and yellow label, is marked "black soy sauce," and is widely available. I don't know if that information is accurate today. I don't know what mine is, because I transferred the remainder to a large Worcestershire bottle years ago.

          1. re: GH1618

            This is the one she meant:

            http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=h...

            1. re: GH1618

              Any tips for substitutions vs light soy sauce? Same amount OK? Marinade is usually 2:1:1/4 soy sauce:rice vinegar:sesame oil

              1. re: fldhkybnva

                same amount, it's more a a color difference.

                1. re: jaykayen

                  No flavor difference?

                2. re: fldhkybnva

                  There can be a significant difference in saltiness between different soy sauces. I suggest experimenting, starting with a reduced amount of soy sauce. It's easy to add a little more, but you don't want to overdo the salt.

                  1. re: GH1618

                    I mentioned the same thing about fish sauce - the salinity of different brands - and even within the same brand can vary fairly widely within the same type of soy sauce sauce. Same adding tamarind juice. That is why a recipe for asian food cannot be followed by rote without tasting the food (taste test).

              2. re: GH1618

                YEARS AGO? You have opened soy sauce that you have in your cupboards (or fridge) for years? Tell me I am not reading that correctly :o Soy sauces can be kept in the cupboard, but last longer in the fridge - but they do not last forever.....

                1. re: cacruden

                  I used to do a lot of Chinese cooking, so had a quart bottle of dark soy sauce. Now I rarely cook Chinese. But now that you mention it, I can't find my dark soy but found the Worcestershire bottle I kept it in. I must have dumped the remainder during a rare episode of tidying up my kitchen. Now I have the same problem as the OP, but since I live near Chinatown I have a lot of choices.

                  1. re: GH1618

                    Have the same problem recently - very little cooking.... to easy just to go downstairs and about a 10 metre walk.... and have a professional cook it for me :o

                  2. re: cacruden

                    The Chinese are masters of preservation. Ever heard of a century egg? I had some "preserved vegetable" which I kept in a jar in my refrigerator for years, as I used so little of it. Now it seems to be gone, too. Drat!

                    1. re: GH1618

                      Not the same for soy sauces - I can taste the difference if I leave it in the cupboard in a matter of months. I actually store all my condiments in the fridge since I don't cook very often these days and even though it is not necessary - it does last longer/fresher in the fridge. I had a bottle of dark soy sauce in my cupboard a few years ago that was there for a year.... and it had a wee bit of mould growing atop it.

              3. It's just like EVOO.

                You get what you pay for. 'Natch.

                1. Many years ago I came across a brand called 'Yamasa' that I just loved. It had a yellow and blue label, no Asian charachters that I recall--and I haven't been able to find it in ages. Maybe it just isn't available in New England any longer?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: KSlink

                    There's plenty still out there. '-)

                    http://tinyurl.com/93f4uny

                    1. re: KSlink

                      I loved that brand too, and now I can't find it. It was the best, and I'm pretty picky about soy, being not a big fan.

                      1. re: KSlink

                        Yes, Yamasa is a very good quality 'true brewed' soy sauce. Soy sauce is like wine or vinegar, you could spend a lifetime learning about it. Some of the cheap stuff is barely more than salt water with caramel coloring, while a really good brand will have all kinds of subtle nuance and character.

                      2. There is definitely a difference between brands. The better brands of soy sauce are usually brewed and contain only Water, Soybeans, Wheat, and salt, and maybe a small amount of a preservative. The cheaper brands often contain things like hydrolyzed soy protein, and may also contain colorings and flavorings.

                        Soy sauces also tend to be different depending on the Asian region they originate from. IIRC Chinese soy sauces tend to be darker than Japanese soy sauces. This has been borne out by some brands that we have tried.

                        We like Wan Ja Shan brand we get at a local Asian market. Though it is a Chinese brand the product you buy in the United States is actually brewed here.

                        On the other hand, we don't care for Yamasa, a Japanese brand. To us it tastes saltier and has a thinner consistency that we don't care for. It too is brewed in the United States.

                        As others have said, Kikkomon is a reliable brand and you won't go wrong if you choose that brand. It might be fun, however, go to local Asian store and pick up a small bottle several different brands and do a taste test yourself. That's what we did and decided we liked Wan Ja Shan.

                        1. What are you using the soy sauce for? I suspect that there is more to soy sauce, just based on local usage. Here in Thailand, when soy sauce (later addition) is used there are three different (commonly used) types that are used (I am not sure how they would compare to others - never did a taste test):

                          ซีอิ๊วขาว - literally translates to white soy sauce - which is a lighter gentler soy soy sauce (not light as in less sodium, or white as in colour).
                          ซีอิ๊วดำ - literally translates to black soy sauce - which is thicker consistency soy sauce
                          ซีอิ๊วหวาน - literally translates to sweet soy sauce (very dark) - which is used for pat see ew noodles

                          Not sure how they compare to chinese soy sauces (which is probably it's origins), but you would not substitute japanese soy sauces.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: cacruden

                            messed up - the dark one is used for pat see ew - in fact a lot of chinese originated noodle dishes.

                            sweet one I only have one recipe: Khao Yum Samunpai - Steamed Pandanus Rice with Fresh Herbs Salad

                          2. In Chinese cooking different soys are used for different purposes and in different dishes. Usually light for adding salt, dark for flavour.

                            1. The difference between soy sauce makers is often as stark as the difference between vintners. Just as wine comes in shades, soy sauce comes in dark (for color and sweetness) and light (for seasoning).

                              For all purpose cooking I like the taste of Kikkoman because it is what I grew up with, but I usually buy Kimlan, which is milder and more versatile. But unless you are doing some serious soy sauce cooking, you are find with a major market brand like Kikkoman. Stay away, however, from La Choy and Dynasty, both of which have very harsh artificial flavors.

                              1. Three brands to consider
                                Kikkoman is a good all-purpose soy sauce that is readily available.
                                Lee Kum Kee is another good all-purpose which is my preference.
                                When I sneak peeks into Chinese restaurant kitchens, Koon Chun is a common brand I see.

                                1. I use Pearl River Bridge for both my light and dark soy. I use ABC brand for kecap manis. I'm not a fan of Kikkoman. I do cook mainly Chinese/SE Asian foods with it, not Japanese, so I think the flavor of the Kikkoman doesn't go with the dishes I make.

                                  1. NOT an expert on soy sauce by any means. Several years ago, when I knew it was on my list, finally stopped in a little Asian market near me. They had all the K sauces that K makes, but also had a LOT of brands with lables I couldn't read. SO, I just asked the store owners for help... with so many different brands... which one should I try first? Owners are super nice and willing to spend time answering my "dumb" questions... like, what's this and what would I do with it. I'm slowly working my way thru the zillions of noodles... even if not used in an "Asian" recipe.

                                    Have made a few great finds there. Four ounce bags of white or black sesame seeds... $.99! Panko... same brand as regular supermarket but about half the price. Lots of nice veggies and fresh tofu that gets dipped outta a big bucket in fridge.

                                    1. Lee Kum Kee is amazing. Product from HK which is not easy to find. Not at my local H Mart. Found it in Chinese Mrkt in Quincy, Ma

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: shaebones

                                        The most neutral and what I use on almost everything is Maggi soy sauce it's that brown bottle with the bright yellow and red letters.. I think it's from France, It has a nice aroma.

                                        1. re: zoey67

                                          Maggi is not soy sauce (at least not the bottle I have).... it is a seasoning sauce.... it is a wheat product.

                                          1. re: cacruden

                                            It looks and tastes like soy sauce : - P

                                            1. re: zoey67

                                              Looks like ....perhaps, but taste like? Huge difference and all you have to do is close your eyes and smell both to know that Maggi is not soy sauce.
                                              I have both Maggi and Ajinomoto in the pantry for the little extra kick the MSG provides

                                              1. re: zoey67

                                                Just did a taste test -- not like light soy sauce, mushroom sauce, nor fish sauce... but it is salty :o BTW, thanks - until I decided to do a taste test .... I did not realize I was out of dark soy sauce (I only thought I was out of the sweet version).

                                                1. re: cacruden

                                                  Maggi and soya are two of my favorite seasonings; both are like concentrated umami in a bottle...

                                                  I often describe Maggi as being similar to soy sauce in that both are dark, salty and strongly flavored. But the tastes are not similar at all, to my palate anyway.

                                                  For soya sauce my preferred brand is Wuan Chuang, hands down. But I also keep a bottle of Kikkoman for use with sushi and other Japanese foods. Or for cases when I want just the basic taste of soya without the extra depth and dimension that Wuan Chuang has.

                                                  1. re: eclecticsynergy

                                                    I randomly picked up a bottle of Maggi last week. I read a lot of posts about it which suggested that it is pretty powerful and best in small quantities. I usually make a dipping sauce with soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and chili sauce to serve with seared tuna and scallops. This week I added literally 3 drops of Maggi and it could have been my imagination but the dish seemed transformed, great flavor.

                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                      My (Thai) cooking teacher (course aimed at professional chef/cooks) also had a preference for using Maggi's in combination with Fish Sauce, Light Soy Sauce, and other sauces for a number recipes that called for seasoning sauce.....

                                                      1. re: cacruden

                                                        One thing I only recently became aware of is that the iterations of Maggi offered in various countries actually have different flavor profiles (and that's not even counting the versions with extra ingredients like lime or hot chiles). The Asian supermarket near me stocks six or seven distinct kinds. German, Thai, American, French, Mexican, Indonesian- all slightly different. I have use the American one and Maggi With Lime, but I've been intending to try the subtler French one called Arome Saveur. Someone kindly pointed me to a blog when I inquired about the differences last Summer:

                                                        http://eatdrinknbmerry.blogspot.com/2...

                                                    2. re: eclecticsynergy

                                                      i wasn't familiar with "wuan chuang" soy sauce, googled, and found this which may be of interest: http://livingintaiwan.wordpress.com/2...

                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                        Thanks for the link, alkapal. Wuan Chuang is very special flavorwise- amazing stuff.

                                                        It's good to know the process and history behind it too.

                                          2. I keep Pearl River for regular seasoning simply because It's the first soy I ever bought so many decades ago and I'm used to the taste,I've recently started to use the Lee Kum Kee double fermented soy,but more for finishing or dipping and I always have a bottle of Datu Puti soy with calamansi lime juice for making Adobo.

                                            1. I prefer Wan Ja Shan's Premium Aged Soy Sauce. Taiwanese brand made in NY.
                                              http://www.wanjashan.com/include/N3O1...

                                              1. Take a t look at the ingredients listed. There's a big difference. The price should tip you off. I use Kikkoman.

                                                1. We use Bragg's Liquid Aminos. Love the flavor, but then I haven't had a specialty soy sauce before.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: JReichert

                                                    To me the Bragg's liquid aminos taste very similar to tamari. That's not a bad thing in many applications.

                                                  2. Sorry being late to the Part-y. The answer to your question is: No, all brands of soy sauce are not the same. In fact, there are a few different kind of soy sauce and different grades. You can think of it like wine. Not only different brands of wine are different, but more importantly, there are different kind of wine like Merlot vs Pinot.

                                                    For example, Japanese Shouyu is different than Chinese soy sauce. Northern Chinese soy sauce is slightly different than Southern Chinese soy sauce....etc.

                                                    So it really depends what recipes you are making. I won't use a Japanese soy sauce if you are making Chinese recipes -- if you can help it.