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Soy sauce: which bottle to buy and how to use it in your cooking

Which soy sauce to choose (shoyu, light, Chinese, Ketchap manis, or Tamari?), when to use it, how to store it, and goodbye to Kenji Ekuan - designer of the original and best Kikkoman soy sauce bottle.

‘Are all soy sauces the same?’ The short answer is, no. Not all soy sauces are created equal, not by a long shot. The good stuff is brewed and the cheap sauce is chemically produced. You can actually smell the difference if you have some of each in front of you. The brewed version is made with soy beans, salt, water and a grain, usually wheat, plus a fungus which helps the beans ferment. The liquid is then aged so it passes through various stages of fermentation, and is finally filtered to make raw soy sauce. Raw soy sauce is generally pasteurised but it can also be bought ‘nama’, or ‘raw’.

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Recipes often call for soy sauce to add a hit of saltiness and umami; but soy sauces vary hugely in flavour, so it pays to know what the brands you like actually taste of, and when to use them. 


different types of soy sauce

Shoyu, Japanese soy sauce, tends to be clearer and thinner than Chinese and other Asian varieties. Kikkoman is the most well known brand – the bottle was designed by Kenji Ekuan, who has sadly just died aged 85. All-purpose is darker than light soy, which actually has a saltier, sweeter flavour, though less colour. Use both for dipping and in recipes, depending on whether you are after colour (all-purpose) or saltiness (light).

Chinese soy sauce also splits into light and dark categories: lighter soy has a more assertive flavour while dark has more colour and is thicker. If in doubt use light, although many recipes call for some of each to balance both colour and flavour.

Tamari is quite strong in flavour and can be used in both recipes and for dipping.

Ketchap manis, an Indonesian soy sauce, has added aromatics and palm sugar. It’s sweet in flavour and is widely used, especially with noodle dishes.


how to store soy sauce

Soy sauce of every type needs to be stored in the dark, away from heat as it is will go off or change flavour. Keep open clear glass bottles in the fridge. Kikkoman ‘fresh’ soy sauce comes in a special squeezy bottle with a pouch within it that compresses as you use up the sauce.


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Please note: soy sauce is not gluten-free