Monday, August 11, 2008

Soy Saucing

I seem to be on a Southwestern kick lately, so I think it's time to switch gears. I want to talk about soy sauce. That black liquid you store in your fridge or pantry that probably says K-something on it. You use it for your stir fries and marinades, adding salt to your dish and some color, but that is probably about it. It's ok, you can admit it, your soy sauce is lacking, but then again, most people don’t even realize that. I lived my life 19 years before I found out. 19 years of bad soy! Looking back, it was almost like living in the dark (soy). Thankfully, my girlfriend's dad John turned me onto to a much more delectable fermentation.

Soy sauce comes in two varieties, light and dark. Light is more salty and has less overall flavor, used mostly for sauces, and does not really work well on its own. Dark soy has a less salty, more complex flavor bordering on sweet, is awesome, and works well as a dipping sauce. I actually prefer to only use dark soy because the flavor it lends is far superior to the light (that and I have more control on how salty I make something). Having two soy sauces would probably be beneficial for those wishing to cook Asian food 5 nights a week, but for those of us who only dabble, having dark around works great.

So let me move on to the product placement portion of this show. I refuse to buy soy sauce in a grocery store (or any Asian ingredient for that matter) for two reasons. 1) It is at least 2-3 times more expensive than in an Asian market and 2) the brands are mass marketed hacks. Yes, that's right, hacks. If you will take a moment, look at the bottle of soy sauce in your kitchen. Check out the ingredients. If it includes "caramel color", then its probably only good for staining shirts. Why? Because soy sauce is made in two ways, by fermenting actual soy beans (the good stuff) and by partially fermenting hydrolyzed soy protein (the hacks). By only using the protein, the color is not achieved and they have to offset this by adding caramel color. Sound good? That's because it's not!

So what can you do? I recommend buying a brand called Pearl River Bridge Superior Soy Sauce. It is the BEST I have found, and it's bordering on dirt cheap. A 1.8L bottle runs you about $4. yep, not kidding. Now that 16oz bottle of soy I paid 5 bucks for back in the day makes me want to bang my head against the wall. I really, really like the Dark Superior Mushroom soy, which is fermented from mushrooms and soybeans, giving an incredible earthy, complex flavor. The stuff is viscous too, not watery and light. If you buy some, give it a quick taste on its own. I guarantee you will be blown away.

Why make a big fuss about soy? Mainly because if you are going to cook with something, it pays to use a good something. Not to mention it's quite cheaper, supports local businesses rather than large chains, and has a wider variety of uses (see:upcoming post). So go ahead and give it a try, and hopefully you too will see the light in the dark (soy).

Addition: next time you are in your local Asian grocery, take a look at some other ingredients like rice and hoisin. You will be amazed how inexpensive they are and the great quality you can find.


Anonymous,  August 28, 2008 at 6:43 PM  

Oh? And where did you first find this delectable fermentation?

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