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Butter & Soy Sauce?

I thought I'd read it all, but today I find myself 6+ years behind! at least.

From an article in today's NYT Dining & Wine section: "Who knows who first mixed soy sauce and butter and discovered the pleasures the combination provides. Try the mixture on warm white rice, a steaming pile of greens or an old sneaker — regardless, the taste is a sublime velvet of sweet and salty, along with a kind of pop the cognoscenti call umami, a fifth taste beyond bitter, sour, salty and sweet. Soy butter provides warmth and luxury, elegance without pomp. It raises recipes to heights almost indescribable in the telling. Jean-Georges Vongerichten cooks thin steaks sautéed in butter with a hit of soy and a shower of ginger."

To me, a revelation, so I went searching; I found a number of old threads about the combo here on Chow, and any number of recipes online.

My question concerns proportions: I've seen ratios of 1:1 all the way to 3 parts butter to 1 part soy. If I'm going to try this over warm rice as a starting point, where should I begin, low or high?

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  1. Sorry your first reply will not be directly responsive, but I love a similar combination of stir fried snow peas tossed in butter and oyster sauce.

    As for your question, I start with the maxim that soy sauce is an accent and should be used judiciously, but butter is a way of life to be embraced. I'd use no more soy sauce than you'd need for a light sprinkle and as much butter as Paula Deen or Julia Child would use.

    Also, try scallops seared and finished in a pat of butter and a few drops of miso. Mmmmm

    2 Replies
    1. re: tim irvine

      "Butter is a way of life to be embraced." Love it!

      1. re: tim irvine

        Also, this is so good on kasha (buckwheat groats). For breakfast.

      2. I've been cooking professionally for over 20 years and I've just recently discovered this delicious combination.
        More butter than soy,a drop of sesame oil and some toasted sesame seeds on steamed baby bok choy= yum!

        1 Reply
        1. re: petek

          Thanks for this; I feel better. I've been cooking (non-professionally) and reading about food for over 40 years. Glad to know I wasn't the only one late to this particular party. :)

        2. You are not alone. I recently tried this recipe for roasted asparagus with balsamic browned butter (with soy). The sauce is sublime but it did overpower the roasted asparagus flavor which I love. So I would like to find something else to use the sauce on. Hmm, maybe rice. I know, not exactly what you were talking about but thought you might be interested. I think the ratios were 2 T. butter, 2 tsps. soy and 1 tsp. balsamic.
          http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/roast...

          12 Replies
          1. re: MrsJonesey

            I'm not a huge asparagus fan, but I might try this with roasted broccolini. Thanks.

            1. re: MrsJonesey

              sorry, but i think the issue here is balsamic + soy. blech.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                actually it works. try it, you might like it. :-)

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  I've been combining soy + balsamic for a long time. It's effectively a lazy man's approach to soy + mirin + rice vinegar, which I doubt anyone would think twice about.

                  1. re: davis_sq_pro

                    i rarely like balsamic and the cheap stuff is appalling. i don't even have any in my house. i don't see how it's an even swap for rice vinegar and mirin. sorry. glad it works for you.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      How do you know whether they use "the cheap stuff?"

                      You don't. People like different things.

                      1. re: linguafood

                        i can only hope they're not using $100 balsamic to mix with soy. then again, it's not my money, lol.

                        " People like different things."

                        right. and i expressed my opinion. which differs.

                      2. re: hotoynoodle

                        What kind of mirin do you like? Anyhow, Mrs. Jonesey likes balsamic and soy and butter. So what? I was enraged at first myself ;-) But then I got over it.

                        But it might make sense. Balsamic is acidic and sweet at the same time, the soy contains salt and umami, and then there's the butter. Might be a good flavor profile. I will try it.

                        1. re: rudeboy

                          Soy sauce, olive oil & balsamic are good as a salad dressing, too. Hold the butter, tho :-)

                          1. re: rudeboy

                            Enraged, huh? lol. Then I probably shouldn't tell you and hotoynoodle about my marinade of equal parts balsamic, soy and Worcestershire sauce, garlic, s & p for cheap steaks. It's mighty fine.

                          2. re: hotoynoodle

                            Since when is lazy equivalent with even?

                            1. re: davis_sq_pro

                              lol, erm, equivalent pretty much means even?

                      1. This topic is so funny to me because I've enjoyed butter and soy sauce together on rice since I was a child. I think I started doing it because my mother would serve plain white rice as a side starch on occasion, and always with butter, s & p. Then during one of her 1970s La Choy-based "Chinese dinner" nights I buttered my rice out of habit before adding some soy and discovered my new favorite way of eating plain rice. I remember my mother being horrified at the time (which is supremely ironic, since she was serving La Choy canned chop suey, but I digress...it was the 70s).

                        As for ratios, as an adult and home cook, I treat the combo for veg like I would any fat and seasoning. In other words, enough fat to impart the umami and treat the soy sauce much like I would salt in a dish. Usually I'll toss veg in enough butter to gloss, and then a few dashes of soy. I suppose you could mix the two first, I just haven't.

                        Even though I've graduated to better soy sauce in my life since the 1970s, it's still a salty seasoning. Treat it as such. For my taste, per cup of cooked white rice I personally wouldn't go over 1 T. unsalted butter (likely less) and maybe 2 t. soy sauce (depending on type). So I suppose that's a 3:2 ratio in teaspoons, butter to soy sauce. The butter really carries the sauce, like oil carries the sharp acid of vinegar in a vinaigrette dressing. Btw, I don't mix the two beforehand. From childhood habit I stir the butter into the rice first and then follow with a little soy.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: team_cake

                          Sounds like what I' do; I've frequently eaten plain buttered rice, so I'll probably take your approach. Thanks.

                          1. re: mcsheridan

                            I frequently eat red lentils on top of rice and have been putting soy sauce on both of them, mixed in with butter. Or just the butter and soy if I have the rice on their own. I have been doing it for at least 25 years so didn't know it was a thing.

                          2. re: team_cake

                            I feel the same way. II generally used butter on rice as an unadorned side dish, adding soy only when I put stir-fried stuff on top. Today after reading the NYT article I tried their mushroom/garlic/butter/soy/thyme combination in their recipe on some leftover rice for lunch. While it wasn't over-the-top great, it was good enough to keep in mind for future meals.