Originating in China more than 2,500 years ago, soy sauce (also called soya or shoyu) is one of the world's oldest condiments. It is made from fermented soybeans and is a cornerstone of Asian cooking.
There are two types of soy sauce: naturally brewed (or fermented) and nonbrewed.
Naturally brewed soy sauce comes from a mixture of moulds, soybeans and wheat. It's mixed with saltwater in fermentation tanks to produce a mash. It's then fermented with bacteria and yeasts for several months, during which time the reddish brown semiliquid develops its distinct flavours and fragrances. Then it's filtered, refined, pasteurized and packaged.
Nonbrewed soy sauce is synthetically produced and made within days, with the addition of colouring, corn syrup and salt.
Chinese soy sauce
There are two basic soy sauces that are important in Chinese cooking.
• Dark soy is aged for a long time, giving it a brown-black colour, thick texture and pungent flavour. It's best for braised foods because it permeates the dish.
• Light soy is aged less than dark, making it lighter in colour and taste but saltier in flavour. It's best for stir-frying, steaming, dipping and seasoning because it won't affect the colour of the dish.
• There is also flavoured soy sauce, which is infused with mushrooms or brine shrimp, and sweet soy, which is a sweet, thick Indonesian sauce of soybeans and
Japanese soy sauce
Wheat is a primary ingredient in Japanese soy sauce, giving it a slightly sweet, sherrylike flavour.
• All-purpose Japanese soy sauce is naturally brewed and has a rich mellow flavour and reddish-brown colour. It is used for cooking, dipping and seasoning.
• Sodium-reduced soy sauce has about 40 per cent of the salt removed after fermentation. It's best added at the latter stages of cooking.
• Tamari soy sauce is usually made without wheat. It is sweet, dark and aromatic, so its flavour is ideally suited to delicate dishes.
• Nama soy sauce is aged four years in wooden kegs, yielding a full flavoured but delicate result. It's best as a dressing or served dipping sauce or with seafood.
• Ponzu sauce is soy sauce seasoned with citrus for the perfect balance of salty, sweet and tangy. It's best as a dipping sauce or whisked into a dressing.
• Sushi-AND-Sashimi soy sauce is a sweet, mild condiment created to accompany sashimi (raw fish) and sushi without overpowering them. It is also a good condiment for dumplings.