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Posted (edited)

13. There are two kinds of soy sauce.

If only.

This oft-repeated 'fact' appears on many websites, including on many which should know better, as well as on YouTube videos, but I guess by now you know what I think of them.

In fact, world-wide there are hundreds of different types - certainly a bit more than two. I will limit myself to what I know. I intimately know my kitchen and I know China moderately well. So this is only about what I have or can find here.

I have six different kinds in my kitchen right now.

The generic term for soy sauce in Chinese is 酱油/醬油* - jiàng yóu. This covers all varieties. A less common alternative is 豉油 - chǐ yóu.

Light Soy Sauce



Most used is what is known in western countries as 'light soy sauce', in China as 生抽 - shēng chōu. Often labelled 'Superior Soy Sauce' in English, this is the go to sauce for much of Chinese cooking, used in many dishes and in marinades or as a dressing or dip. If a recipe does not specify what type of sauce, use this one.

It is strongly flavoured and saline in taste, although low sodium versions are also available. Most soy sauce today also contains wheat, so is not usually gluten-free, although gluten-free versions can be found in larger supermarkets.

The best should only contain water, soy beans, wheat and water. Check the ingredients list. If there is no English, then here are the four ingredients in Chinese in the same order: 水,黄豆,小麦,盐/水,黃豆,小麥,鹽.


Dark Soy Sauce




This is also common. Known as 老抽 - lǎo chōu, this is a thicker, sweeter sauce mainly used to add colour rather than taste. It is also less salty. Cheaper versions often add caramel or molasses - avoid!


Light and dark sauces are used together in certain dishes.


Organic Soy Sauce




The above sauces are also available in 'organic'versions. However, in China there is no legal definition of 'organic', so who knows?


Black Bean Soy Sauce




The first two sauces I mentioned are, 99% of the time, made from yellow soy beans, but also available is sauce made from black soy beans. To my palate, this variation has a deeper, more subtle flavour. It has become my preferred choice.


White Soy Sauce




White soy sauce is rarer than the others. It is only available in a light form as it contains no wheat. Otherwise, it tastes the same as the regular type, but is sometimes preferred for presentation in dressings, dips etc.


Seasoned Soy Sauce




Another light soy sauce, but this time seasoned with sugar, yeast extract and MSG, so sweeter and with more of a umami kick. Mostly used with Cantonese steamed fish.

There are many more types which I''ll add as I come across them. Mushroom soy sauce springs to mind.


to be continued


* Where Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese differ, I give both. Simplified is used in mainland China, where as traditional is used by Hong Kong, Taiwan and much of the Chinese diaspora - so there is a good chance of seeing either in Asian markets.



Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Here is the mushroom soy sauce I mentioned in the previous post. Well, it's one version. This one is by Lee Kum Kee, not the best manufacturer by a long shot.




Their version uses straw mushrooms. Basically this is just another dark soy sauce flavoured with the 'shrooms. A tiny amount in this variety - it's the last listed ingredient.


Ingredients: in order of amount


Water, salt, defatted soy, wheat, wheat flour, caramel, MSG, white sugar, potassium sorbate, straw mushroom. Industrial food.

Better versions use greater amounts of mushroom, normally shiitake. My hunt shall continue.


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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, weinoo said:

Do they ever use what's called Tamari soy sauce, which I guess is the gluten-free version of soy?


Looking a little further, I guess it's more of a Japanese product.


Yes. Japanese. Not what I'm exploring here. I've already mentioned that there are gluten-free Chinese soy sauces.

Edited by liuzhou (log)

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12 hours ago, weinoo said:

So there's nothing Japanese in any Chinese person's kitchen?


Very little. I can't think of anything. Japan and China don't exactly get on well.

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19 hours ago, heidih said:

I use to keep Perl River Bridge mushroom flavored soy in my pantry. Any opinion?

I pulled a bottle of exactly this out of my fridge last night, as I wanted to use some soy in a mushroom dish I was making and thought, hey - mushroom soy - great idea! But when I saw the ingredients included sugar, I decided against and just used some of that crazy soy I got from Mala.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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32 minutes ago, weinoo said:

How much do those soy sauces cost?


I see a date on the bottom of the bottom jar - I'm assuming that's the production date? Or maybe when they added the iron(why?)?


They were both around 10-12 yuan ($1.50 - $2 USD.)

Chinese food labelling normally gives the production date rather than a 'best before' or 'eat this and you'll die' date. Much more sensible.


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