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Light Soy Sauce vs Dark Soy Sauce

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Soy sauce brings what cooks like to call “umami” to any dish. It is very much like wine since the longer it ages, the more interesting and complex the flavours get. This condiment ages about 2,000 years old and there has not been another as interesting as it. There are different types used in both Japanese and Chinese cooking - one is dark and one is light - although most recipes don’t specify and just simply ask for “soy sauce”.  

How to make Soy Sauce?

As the name suggests, it is a liquid made from soybeans, wheat, water and salt. It may fall into two types: naturally brewed or fermented and chemically produced. The naturally version of this sauce is fermented for up to about two years, while chemical or non-brewed soy sauce  is produced quickly within days. It is a blend of soy protein and flavourings/colourings like corn syrup and caramel. In terms of flavour, the naturally brewed sauce has a more complex aroma and flavour while the chemical version is more onenote and extremely salty.

Dark Soy Sauce

Dark Soy Sauce

Light vs Dark Soy Sauce

When it comes to the colour, it is really dependent on the length of aging. Japanese and Chinese light versions of this sauce are more thin and lighter in colour (relatively speaking). However, the flavours are more intense than their darker counterparts. The dark sauce has aged the longest and tends to be sweeter. The sweetness comes from an addition of molasses or another sweetener. Dark Japanese soy sauce is the one that is most available and used.  It’s quite the opposite in Chinese cooking since light soy sauce is more common. The bottles will often indicate light (sometimes “thin” or “superior”) or dark. The dark version is popular among stews as a flavour boosters or finishing sauce. All in all, you can find it in your local grocery store or here. What you choose to cook with is really up to you and what flavours you are trying to achieve and what you will be using it for. If it is for a dipping sauce,the lighter one would work whereas the dark version is perfect for cooking because of its more complex flavours. How would you use your soy sauce during your next cooking session for your friends and family?

Which soy sauce is more expensive? Light or dark?

Light soy sauce

The price of soy sauce can vary depending on various factors such as brand, quality, and country of origin. However, generally speaking, dark soy sauce tends to be slightly more expensive than light soy sauce.

Dark soy sauce undergoes a longer fermentation process and has a higher concentration of soybeans. It has a thicker consistency and a richer, deeper flavor compared to light soy sauce. The additional fermentation and higher soybean content contribute to its higher cost of production, which often reflects in the price.

On the other hand, light soy sauce is typically lighter in color and flavor. It is made from a shorter fermentation process and has a higher salt content. Light soy sauce is more commonly used for seasoning, marinating, and cooking, while dark soy sauce is often used for color and flavor enhancement in dishes.

It's important to note that the price difference between light and dark soy sauce may vary depending on the brand and region. It's always a good idea to check the prices at your local stores or online retailers to get a more accurate understanding of the specific cost difference in your area.

How to choose the right flavor: Light Soy Sauce vs. Dark Soy Sauce

Choosing the right flavor between light soy sauce and dark soy sauce can greatly impact the taste of your dishes. Here are some considerations to help you make the right choice:

  1. Purpose: Understand the role of soy sauce in your dish. Light soy sauce is commonly used for seasoning, marinating, and adding saltiness without altering the color significantly. Dark soy sauce, on the other hand, is preferred for its rich flavor and ability to impart a dark color to dishes. Consider whether you need a milder, more versatile flavor (light soy sauce) or a stronger, more pronounced flavor (dark soy sauce).

  2. Flavor Intensity: Light soy sauce has a saltier and lighter flavor compared to dark soy sauce. If you prefer a subtler taste that enhances the natural flavors of the ingredients, light soy sauce is a good option. Dark soy sauce offers a deeper, bolder flavor that can stand out in dishes with stronger flavors or when you want to add depth to the overall taste.

  3. Color: Dark soy sauce adds a rich, dark brown color to dishes, which can be desirable for certain recipes like stir-fries, braised dishes, or noodle preparations. If achieving a darker color is important for the visual appeal of your dish, then dark soy sauce is the preferred choice.

  4. Recipe Compatibility: Consider the specific recipe you are preparing. Some recipes, such as light seafood dishes or delicate stir-fries, may benefit from the lighter flavor and color of light soy sauce. Dark soy sauce is often used in heartier dishes, stews, or meat-based recipes where the bold flavor and color can complement the ingredients.

  5. Personal Preference: Ultimately, it comes down to personal taste. Experiment with both light and dark soy sauces in different recipes to find the flavor profile that appeals to you and complements the overall dish.

Remember, it's always a good idea to taste and adjust the amount of soy sauce in your recipes gradually, as the saltiness and flavor can vary between brands and types of soy sauce.


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