May 12, 2014

12 Different Soya Sauces and How to use them

Soya sauce. I had always been familiar with two: Chinese light soya sauce, and Chinese dark soya sauce. And occasionally at dim sum, or eating at a Chinese restaurant, I would get to eat a delicious light and sweet soya sauce, usually added to roast meats and cheung fun (steamed rice rolls). I remember my dad explaining to me, when I was still a child, that it was made by cooking down dark soya and adding sugar.  

In recent years, I have learnt to cook lots of different types of cuisines, leading me to discover a whole load of different soya sauces. I sometimes get puzzled looks when I share recipes involving different soya sauce, as I might state light/dark soya or bonito soya or kecap manis. My friends and colleagues also didn't quite believe me when I said I probably had at least 7-8 different types of soya sauces at home, so I thought I'd share the types of soya sauce I do have. Turns out I have 12! There may be more soya sauces out there that I don't know of, so do enlighten me if I haven't listed it here.

1. Light soya. Probably the most popular one, and generally known as “soya sauce”. In western supermarkets such as Tesco’s and Sainbury’s, this is one you can definitely pick up. It can be used in cooking, marinade, dipping and has a salty taste - a great all rounder.

2. Dark soya. Also easy to pick up from a western supermarket. Is very dark in colour and used many to colour foods, such as giving fried noodles or fried rice that golden hue. Slightly salty but predominately sweet.

3. Knorr liquid seasoning. This is an amazing soya sauce that taste like it’s been infused with seafood stock. It’s a truly unique flavour that I can’t quite explain. Use this in congee (Chinese savoury rice porride) and I bet you that you’ll not go back to regular soya. Unfortunately, you can’t buy this in the UK, I stock up when I go to HK.

4. Maggi liquid seasoning. This is the alternative to Knorr as you can buy this one in UK. It has a heavier taste than Knorr, and is good for stir fries too.

5. Tow chow/premier soya. A premium Chinese soya sauce using the best soya beans and a longer fermentation process resulting in a deeper flavour.

6. Claypot rice soya. A sweet and savoury soya sauce used for making claypot rice. Easy to make this yourself by mixing light and dark soya together along with sugar if you can’t find this in the shops.

7. Steamed fish soya. A sweetish, light coloured soya used for steaming fish or any steamed dish.

8. Tamari. Japanese soya sauce that is savoury with a slight sweet aftertaste. The colour is darker than light soya sauce, but not as strong as dark soya sauce.

9. Bonito soya for soup. A soya sauce made with bonito and kelp extract. Dilute with water to make a soup base for udon/soba, or use as it as a marinade and in cooking.

10. Japanese soya sauce. This is the Japanese version of Chinese light soya sauce. It has a darker colour, is salty and has a slight seafood/fish flavour. 

[Picture taken in Sainsbury, this was the only soya I didn't have at home]

11. Korean soya sauce for soup. Used for Korean soups and stir fries. Lightly coloured and has a salty taste like light soya but also with a hint of seafood/fish.

12. Kecap manis. Similar to dark soya sauce, but is much thicker in texture. Used mainly in Indonesion, Malaysian and Singaporean cuisine either in fried rice, noodles, or as a dipping sauce for plain steamed/boiled chicken.

So here is my huge collection of soya at home. I'll be listing them in recipes as I use them.

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Maira Gall