Sunday, 21 August 2011

Soy Sauce!

Kwong Woh Hing

My friend (who has just started a blog, actually - a very creative and beautiful looking blog - little macaroon) emailed me a few months ago with a link to this blog post from I Eat, I Shoot, I Post talking about "the best soy sauce in the world" which is fermented in Singapore.  She offered to bring me home some to try.  Reading the post made me realise that I had never in my life even thought about soy sauce.  I didn't know how it was made and certainly didn't give any thought as to whether the stuff in Tesco was any good.  The above blog post is a real eye opener - he takes you through the whole process of making soy sauce with great photos too. 

She brought me a big bottle of light soy sauce and a small bottle of dark.  So first of all, I need to find out - what is the difference? Well, the dark soy sauce was a revelation.  It was so thick, I had to bang on the upended bottom of the bottle to get any out.  It looked like treacle.  I have never seen anything like that before.  The dark soy we get here is very watery.  
A google search tells me that dark soy is fermented or aged longer than the light and is little different other than the colour and usually less salty than the light.  Not sure I am much wiser.  I would be grateful if anyone can enlighten me more.  My small bottle of thick dark soy seems very special and I would love to know what the best way to use it would be.

So, back to the light -  in comparison with what I have in the house (at the moment I have a Tesco Tamari soy sauce but usually I have the Japanese Kikkoman).  I was worried about tasting the lovely Kwong Woh Hing sauce as I wondered if I would taste something amazing but then never be able to get it again in this country and forever be disappointed by soy sauce here. I first tasted the light soy with some deep fried prawns in filo and my first reaction was disappointment.  It lacked the saltiness that I am used to and I am a terrible salt fiend.  I love just licking salt and I add far too much to everything.

One evening, I then served some smoked salmon with a dish of the Tamari and a dish of the light soy sauce to Steve for a blind testing.  He chose the Tesco stuff as his favourite, again saying that the other wasn't as salty.  We felt the new stuff was much less salty, sweeter and tangier.  After a few tastes Steve said he felt the flavours in the new stuff were more complex and "you feel there is more happening on your tongue".  I then went back to the "old" stuff and amazingly I realised that the saltiness really does just slam into you and really overpowers the salmon.  It also now tasted much more synthetic.  By the end, I much preferred the Kwong Woh Hing.  It has a completely different flavour to the synthetic Tesco stuff and I now realise that, although, I love the saltiness of my usual soy, it really is a very uninteresting one dimensional taste. 

What a fascinating journey into the world of soy sauce.  I do prefer the more delicate Kwong Woh Hing but hopefully when it runs out I will still enjoy my salt hit from the Kikkoman.  Or I might just get my pal to bring back a case of Kwong Woh Hing if she ever finally gets the ship to bring her belongings home!  (umm, if you are reading Missy - you better come home soon - you and your family are missed!)


  1. This sounds absolutely amazing. Sometimes it's hard knowing what you're missing!

  2. Aaah - bloglove! Don't you worry, I can take more soy orders next time I'm travelling UK-way.

    The only thing I have used my bottle of light Kwong Woh Hing for is as an ingredient in various noodle soups (our cheap staple here). I found it interesting because it's much paler than my usual giant vat of Kikkoman, so the broths ended up a much paler colour, but the taste worked really well because while the broths didn't really need more saltiness, they benefitted from more depth of flavour. I think it'll really come into its own when you combine it with other flavours.

    I'll email the uncle at Kwong Woh Hing to see if I can find out what he recommends using his Dark Soy Sauce is for. I had no idea it would be so thick!

    Interestingly, a Japanese cookbook I have says that Japanese soy sauce is generally LESS salty than Chinese, and that Kikkoman is also naturally brewed (without prservatives - by which I presume they mean MSG?). But obviously it's hugely mass-produced, possibly a reason why it's less interesting than the artisan Kwong Woh Hing.

  3. I though 'I must try this' and started looking on the web. Oh well, it's not sold in retailers OR through wholesalers, but only via telephone orders.

    I wonder if they want a British agent?
    (in case you didn't have their website addy).

  4. This was a very interesting read. Soy sauce can really make or break a dish... I have at least three different kinds in my pantry - unfortunately, they are all mass-produced, as I use quite a lot and go through the bottles quite fast.

  5. That was very interesting, thanks for posting!

  6. I'm with you on the salt - I have been known to watch telly with a handful of Maldon salt flakes!!!!

    Very interesting stuff about the soy sauce - gets you thinking.

  7. I'm such a soy sauce snob, so I love this! I threw out a roommate's full bottle of store-brand "lite" soy sauce, and told them I would purchase the right thing for them I just couldn't have that soy sauce in the house, haha. Interesting post!

  8. Greg - it's an ongoing journey of discovery, isn't it?

    Macaroon - I just made the recipe you recommended yesterday - and will probably blog it sometime this week. I agree completely about being able to taste the difference in the broth - made it light, tangy and flavoursome. Good idea to email the Uncle - thanks.

    Lynn - thanks. It's a pity it isn't easier to get hold of these things to try. But the world is certainly getting smaller.

    Valerie - what are your 3 types?

    Anna - learning about soy sauce and how it is made was completely fascinating to me.

    BVG - sounds like a brilliant snack to me!

    Forgottenbeast - love your name. What soy sauce do you use?

  9. Ah - I'd never looked at the KWH website before where they have suggested uses next to their products. Seems the dark soy sauce is prodominantly for braising ( I have had some of the best ever dark sticky braised belly pork here in Singapore - it'll be one of my abiding food memories. I can't imagine how good it would be homemade with this dark sauce.

    p.s. a few translations from the link above: kway chap is a dish of flat noodles and braised pigs bits - all manner of offally bits. And bak kut teh is a uniquely Singaporean pork bone soup that used to be eaten by coolies on the docks because it was full of energy for their hard labour. They used to drink it with kung fu tea, and so the dish became "pork soup and tea" (bak kut teh). Interesting huh?

  10. Macaroon - I love pork belly too. You used to get beautiful squares of sticky pork belly in Yatai. Sounds like I have found the first way to use my sticky, dark soy. Yay.

  11. I just saw Chef Wan (a local hero) on the Asian Food Channel making this recipe and thought of your dark soy sauce (

    It looked so delicious, and was part of a programme about Peranakan cuisine - totally fascinating - a whole culture I'd never heard of until I moved here ( with the most DELISH food.

    If you ever watched Rick Stein's Far Eastern series, you might remember Rick doing a cooking session with the totally eccentric Chef Wan - he's amazing!