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Mar 8, 2014 12:56 PM

SALTY soy sauce!?!

O know it's naturally salty and I like salty. Needed to buy more, so stopped at little Asian market. Did a little eeeny, meeny, miney, moe thing and pick a bottle with lable I didn't think I had tried before... NO English on it. It was so INCREDIBLY salty, even I couldn't use it. Luckily, NOT a bit loss.

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  1. Yeah, same here. After researching best soy sauce brands, both here and on the web, I purchased Pearl River Bridge brand light and dark soy sauce, and they were both awful - they didn't taste like soy sauce as I know it, just overwhelmingly salty. down the drain they went. (should have returned these instead!)

    2 Replies
    1. re: janniecooks

      You wasted good soy sauce. Just because it wasn't the type you were used to doesn't mean it wasn't good. You have to use it how it was meant to be used, most likely in more limited amounts.

      1. re: JMF

        Agreed - PRB is one of the better sauces out there!

    2. I wonder if it was a special soy sauce with a distinct purpose...

      1. Kikkoman Low Sodium (with the green label) is all I buy for general use. It is well-balanced and flavorful without overpowering salinity. I do have a bottle of tamari I reserve for one special dish but use it so sparingly it is about 6 years old. I also have a bottle of the Pearl River mushroom soy that is so salty, I may give it the drain vacation as well.

        1. Some Asian, including Chinese, cuisines use particular soy sauces with high salt. Chinese "black" or "dark" soy sauce is specified for this reason in some recipes that use it for the salt, but want to add less liquid than in common soy sauce.

          As Chefpaulo wrote, Kikkoman has a mainstream reduced-sodium soy sauce (green label). Tamari (aged soy sauce) also is readily available in low-sodium versions, from firms that specialize in tamari, like San-J (San-J has many types of Tamari including wheat-free / low-sodium and I always prefer that brand over Kikkoman's, but there are others too.)

          Tamari has the advantage of richer flavor and "umami" so you can get by with less of it, further reducing gratuitous sodium in cooking.

          See related posting in a current seasonings thread:

          4 Replies
          1. re: eatzalot

            Actually dark soy sauce is less salty. It's used in Chinese cooking to add sweetness and color, not so much salinity.

            1. re: JungMann

              JungMann: "Actually dark soy sauce is less salty. It's used in Chinese cooking to add sweetness and color, not so much salinity."

              My mentions of such points aren't meant as personal assertions or beliefs, but summaries from the sources I get them from. More detail:

              1. From Barbara Tropp, "The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking," 1982 (a US classic):

              "The more intensely salty black soy sauce gives you all the flavor and color of thin (regular) soy sauce with less liquid, making it ideal for cold noodle dishes where you want the sauce to cling to the noodles rather than lie in a puddle beneath them. Black soy sauce also has a slight molasses edge, which mates perfectly with the spunkier ingredients (. . .) typically used to dress cold noodles."

              Comment 1: Tropp's recipe for "Orchid" noodles was for me eye-opening, even after 30 years of cooking Chinese recipes at home. Deceptively simple, but the most exquisite dressed cold noodle dish I have ever tasted, from either a restaurant or a recipe. It not only "matures" over a few days refrigerated, but also further "cooks" thick, fresh Chinese noodles that were slightly undercooked or "al-dente" before the dressing was applied. Comment 2: Notwithstanding Tropp's advice, after several times through with the "Orchid" recipe I now use low-sodium thin soy sauce in moderation; the dressing still clings adequately to the noodles (this dish is ideally kept refrigerated and periodically tossed for 1-2 days before serving, anyway) and I can add potassium-chloride salt substitute as necessary to adjust the salty flavor of the seasoning without more sodium. See related note:

              2. Tropp's saltiness point is corroborated by gov't-mandated nutrition labels on black or dark soy sauces I've purchased, and currently on hand. As much as 1500mg sodium per tablespoon. Vs about 900 and 575 mg/T for basic and low-sodium Kikkoman soy sauces respectively.

              1. re: eatzalot

                I have bottle of LKK Premium SS at 1050 mg sodium/T, and Premium Dark LKK at 1150.

                But is the difference due to the amount of salt added, or the amount of water added (or removed). The Dark is obviously thicker. Dark also has more carbs, but that can be due to added molasses and caramel. I don't see on the nutrition label a way measuring the 'water dilution'.

                Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) is way down at 400mg, but it is half sugar/molasses.

                The product in my pantry with the highest sodium level is a premium (Red Boat) fish sauce at 1400.

                1. re: paulj

                  You've been lucky! The Amoy Dark (from HK) that I currently have runs about 1500, also typical of other brands I've tried from the Chinese markets here in the SF area, so I can readily confirm from experience Tropp's authoritative remark. Tropp of course having been something of a Fuchsia Dunlop of her day -- and THEN running a pioneering US Chinese restaurant for years -- before dying tragically young.

                  Incidentally after a lot of experience with them, and for reasons unrelated to this particular thread, I tend to avoid LKK condiments although they are ubiquitous in the US. (This has come up periodically in CH discussions of Chinese condiments for several years.) More in this recent post to another thread:

          2. Mushroom soy sauce is very salty and some soy sauces have a lot of MSG in them, making them taste much more salty.
            Those types of soy sauces are not used the same way. They are used in place of salt for marinades and dips (more like you would use MSG powder).

            22 Replies
            1. re: sedimental

              While none of the three I have in my house mention MSG on the label, I'm so glad you did. Soy sauce, or any product, with MSG should be totally avoided by pregnant women. Recent research has shown that it is the most potentially pernicious neurotoxin to a developing fetus that has been identified in food products. Please send this to all who may need to know.

              1. re: Chefpaulo

                Many would disagree with you about that, and I have no interest in arguing it, but as always, if you don't want a specific ingredient in your food, you must read the labels.

                Often MSG is in flavored soy sauces from outside the USA. My mushroom soy has MSG in it and it is Thai. MSG is ubiquitous in Thailand, Japan, China and Vietnam. All those cuisines are growing in popularity in America.

                Everyone has eaten it in those countries for decades and it is a desired and common ingredient in many condiments (not just soy sauces) but bean sauces, broths/soups, sausages, dry seasonings, etc.

                If you cook those cuisines much and shop at an Asian store and buy the general, authentic packaged ingredients needed, you will most likely be eating MSG. If the label is in a language you can't read, I would assume that it does before assuming that it doesn't.

                  1. re: Chefpaulo

                    Yet somehow healthy babies continue to be born in Asia...

                    Pretty sure the teratogenic dose of MSG exceeds normal consumption by several orders of magnitude (assuming that MSG is actually teratogenic, of which I am dubious)

                      1. re: joonjoon

                        FDA's data sheet on MSG. It is dated 1980, with a 2006 update.

                        "In pregnant monkeys, glutamate does not appear to readily cross the placental barrier." is apparently based on a test reported in 1975. I don't find references (other than in obviously anti-msg sites) to newer studies.

                        2007 review

                    1. re: sedimental

                      ALL soy sauces have "MSG" in them -- its two components -- if they contain any sodium at all. Soy sauce and other fermented condiments are among the most famous of many NATURAL glutamate sources. That is indeed why people use soy sauce! -- for its flavor enhancing (umami) effect, coming from glutamate and other naturally occurring enhancers, which particularly concentrate in such condiments. Please become acquainted with the basic background of this subject if you are offering advice about it. Second link below includes data on some common natural glutamate sources (green tea, grape juice, peas, essentially all meats, many many others). And glutamate is an amino acid produced in all our bodies anyway, it's a component of cells, and plays an essential role in the nervous system.

                      Industrial production of pure MSG as a food additive commonly employs a grain-fermentation process related to soy-sauce production. Commercial "MSG," perceived as such a demon by people who know very little about it, is fundamentally just an isolation of one of the several common, natural flavor enhancers that make many foods taste the way they do.



                      1. re: eatzalot

                        I am very well acquainted with this subject. I was taking about added MSG as an additional flavor enhancer in flavored soy sauces. Which explains the extra "saltiness".

                        1. re: sedimental

                          (My "Please" was meant chiefly for Chefpaulo.)

                          But do you actually find explicit MSG added to soy sauces? I have never spotted it on a label -- nor is it on the labels of the soy sauce brands I have on hand currently -- and am surprised. That's like "bringing coals to Newcastle" since soy sauce itself is a famous natural MSG source already. (Quantified in WP's glutamic-acid article that I linked.)

                          The CH posting that I linked upthread, by the way, touches on a counterintuitive aspect of MSG and sodium intake. Because MSG enhances perceived saltiness, yet contains much less sodium than table salt does, weight-for-weight, it's actually possible to _reduce_ sodium in foods but still leave them tasting equally salty, by using MSG. (Not that I'd do it that way, but it illustrates how the realities of this subject aren't always obvious.)

                          1. re: eatzalot

                            Yes. MSG is listed additionally on the label.
                            It is an additive, like caramel color, which is typical too.

                            Edit:like the OP, I buy my ingredients at an Asian store, not a regular grocery store. My Asian store carries about 20 different soy sauces, about half of those or more have added MSG on the label. Many of them have no English on the label.

                            1. re: sedimental

                              But which brands? I am very curious, I've never seen this.

                              1. re: eatzalot

                                Off the top of my head, all Healthy Boy brands tend to. Its the flavored ones that usually have MSG and color added, especially shrimp flavor and mushroom flavor. They are waaaay saltier than regular soy sauce.

                                Here is the ingredient list for HB (thai) mushroom soy sauce. A very popular soy sauce for Thai cooking. Very salty. You don't just use it by itself.

                                ngredients: Defatted Soy beans, mushroom, water, salt, wheat flour, cane sugar, Monosodium Glutamate (E-621), Disodium 5' - Inosinate (E631) and Sodium 5'- Guanylate (E-627), Mushroom, Sodium Benzoate as Preservatives, Natural Colour (caramel), Nature Identical Mushroom Flovour Added.

                                1. re: sedimental

                                  I pretty much only use Healthy Boy soy sauces (and low sodium Kikkoman)

                                  I checked my bottles of light, dark and mushroom and none say they contain MSG. or those other chemicals.

                                  I'm not an MSG hater. I add it in very small amounts to many things I cook.

                                  I am sensitive to its taste and have never tasted in in Healthy Boy products.

                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                    I cut and pasted the ingredient list from the Mushroom Healthy Boy Brand.... that is also what it says on my bottle.

                                    1. re: sedimental

                                      I find that really interesting ...

                                      Where did you buy yours? I buy mine in Boston and once in awhile NYC

                            2. re: eatzalot

                              ...And that is why I said in my first post that these soy sauces are used in a different way. They are used more like you would use salt or MSG powder in a dish. They are not meant to be used like regular soy sauce.

                              1. re: sedimental

                                OK; my main point nevertheless is that not some, but ALL soy sauces have "a lot of MSG in them," even if it is not added explicitly. Because it is one of soy sauce's principal, defining, naturally-occurring components.

                                The linked WP table compares glutamate content in some soy sauces from different countries.

                                1. re: eatzalot

                                  And I didn't mean to hijack the thread on this - just maybe offer an explanation to why this particular bottle was too salty to use for the OP.

                                  It is hard to tell what you are buying when you can't read the label due to language issues.

                                  1. re: sedimental

                                    Good point.

                                    (By the way, inosine or inosinates, and guanylates, are the "other two" famous naturally occurring flavor-enhancer families, so a great many foods contain those components too, even when not added deliberately.)

                                    1. re: eatzalot

                                      Wow and OMG! Look what I started here!
                                      I just went out to a seminar last fall for a couple of CEUs to renew my license and had a pediatric neurologist tell me about the fetal effects of MSG.

                                      Thirty years ago, my elder cousin cardiologist in Scarsdale sent me an article on "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" in response to my total disorientation and borderline hallucinations experienced after dinner at a Queens eatery that left a good Tbs.of undissolved MSG granules on my plate. Maybe I'm jumping the gun, but my experience certainly augmented the doc's credibility on how this can mess up one's thought processes, and particularly those of a developing brain.
                                      [N.B. I qualified my statement with "potential" as genetic and constitutional factors can mitigate.]

                                      1. re: Chefpaulo

                                        The so-called "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" that your cousin mentioned was the famous speculative explanation in a 1968 medical letter, which entered popular consciousness more thoroughly than has the subsequent long record of actual investigations, which thoroughly discredited the 1968 "syndrome" speculation. I summarized Myhrvold's 2011 overview of the subject in another posting within the thread linked earlier:


                                        It seems that some people do have consistent reactions to certain Chinese restaurant dishes, but when rigorously tested, those reactions are attributed to factors like legume or shellfish allergies triggered by ingredients, such as condiments, rather than by glutamate which, after all, plays some natural healthy roles in the human body, which produces its own. Familiarization with those roles, and with the many, unrecognized, dietary glutamate sources (which do not generally trigger "syndromes" or popular anxiety) is the basic background acquaintance I advocated earlier here. It casts much of the popular discussion of "MSG" in a very different light.

                                        In fact, the point has been made that MSG as a popular catch-all explanation, since 1968, for food side effects has distracted people from actual sensitivities to other food components that can even be potentially life-threatening.

                                        All that said, a tablespoon of undissolved pure MSG on the plate isn't something I'd care to eat either. Rather get my dietary soluble glutamates -- if any -- in natural sources, like grape juice and Reggiano Parmesan!