How To

Dark, light, sweet or gluten-free? The best soy sauce for your Chinese cuisine

Take your dishes to a new level by choosing the right sauce for your dish.

If you thought one soy sauce fits all, you’d be mistaken. There’s much versatility in soy – especially its uses in different cuisines – so by adding right you can lift your cooking game to new heights. Here, we explain the different varieties of soy sauce used in Chinese cuisine, their flavour profile and the dishes they’ll elevate so you never have to stand confused in the condiment aisle of a supermarket again.

Fried rice with soy sauce

Dark soy sauce

In Chinese cooking, this variety is the star of the show – adding deep colour and flavour to rich dishes such as casseroles and slow-cooked stews. Deep brown, almost black in colour with a thicker consistency than other types, this soy has a slight caramel taste. Try it in pork recipes, noodle dishes and stir-fries. Dark soy is usually paired with light soy sauce to achieve the ideal colour and taste.

Tofu and sugar snap pea stirfry

Light soy sauce

Also known as Chinese soy, this variety has a lighter colour, is thinner in consistency and has a pleasant soybean aroma and the perfect balance of sweet and umami flavour. It’s generally used as seasoning during cooking and marinating, adding flavour to meat, noodles and rice dishes without adding too much colour. This is the most commonly used soy sauce in many Chinese and Asian dishes.

Gluten free soy sauce

This variety replaces wheat with corn starch and you don’t have to go to an Asian grocer to find it stocked at Woolworths and Coles. It’s made the authentic way with no added preservatives, MSG, colours and flavours. Use it for marinating, dipping and stir-frying.

Honey soy chicken

Sweet soy sauce

As the name suggests, sweet soy sauce is just that – an aromatic sweetened soy sauce. The variety used in Chinese cuisine is not to be mistaken with the Indonesian variety known as Kecap Manis – which has a thick syrupy-like texture and a rich molasses-like flavour due to being sweetened with palm sugar. Instead, Chinese sweet soy often contains aromatics and spices, along with sugar or high fructose corn syrup for a more subtle flavour profile. Use it in noodle and stir-fry dishes where a little sweetness is needed.

As you can see, not all soy sauces are created equal – not just when it comes to the variety but also the process in which it’s made. The best soy sauces will have the words “naturally brewed” on the packaging as this is the authentic way to make this condiment – that being using the core ingredients: wheat, soybeans, water and salt. This process takes months, allowing the rich, complex and mellow flavour to develop.

Choosing the right soy sauce for your next stir-fry is the secret to enjoying an authentic Chinese dish at home.

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