similar appearance, soy sauces produced in different cultures and regions are very different in taste, consistency, and fragrance. As such, it may not be appropriate to substitute soy sauces of one culture or region for another.
Chinese soy sauce
Chinese soy sauce (jiàngyóu) are primarily made from soybeans, with relatively low amounts of other grains. There are two main varieties:
- Light/fresh soy sauce ("Shēngchōu"): A thin (as in non-viscous) opaque dark brown soy sauce. It is the main soy sauce used for seasoning, since it is saltier, but it also adds flavour. Since it is lighter in color, it does not greatly affect the color of the dish. The light soy sauce made from the first pressing of the soybeans is called Tóuchōu, which can be loosely translated as first soy sauce or referred to as premium light soy sauce. Touchōu is often sold at a premium because of better taste (similar to extra virgin olive oil).
- Dark/old soy sauce ("Lǎochōu"): A darker and slightly thicker soy sauce that is aged longer and contains added molasses to give it its distinctive appearance. This variety is mainly used during cooking since its flavour develops under heating. It has a richer, slightly sweeter, and less salty flavour than light soy sauce. Dark soy sauce is partly used to add color and flavour to a dish.
- Thick soy sauce ("Jiàngyóugāo"): Dark soy sauce that has been thickened with starch and sugar. It is also occasionally flavored with MSG. This sauce is not usually used directly in cooking but more often as a dipping sauce or poured on food as a flavorful addition.
- Dark soy paste (huángjiàng): Although not really a soy sauce, it is another salty soy product. It is one of the main ingredients in a dish called zhajiang mian (lit. "fried paste noodles").
In Singapore and Malaysia, soy sauce in general is dòuyóu; dark soy sauce is called jiàngyóu and light soy sauce is jiàngqīng. Angmoh tauyew, lit. "foreigners' soy sauce" is the Hokkien name for Worcestershire sauce. In Taiwan, only light soy sauce is used and this is referred to as jiangyou; the terms shengchou and laochou are not used. In addition to soy sauce made from soybeans and wheat, there is a variety that is made from black beans. Soy sauce made from black beans is generally more expensive because it takes longer to make, but it is claimed to have higher nutrition value and aromatic flavour.
Hawaiian soy sauce
A unique type of soy sauce produced by Aloha Shoyu Company since 1946 is a special blend of soybeans, wheat, and salt, historically common amongst local Hawaii residents.
Indonesian soy sauce
Kecap manis Indonesian thick and sweet soy sauceIn Indonesia, soy sauce is known as kecap (a catchall term for fermented sauces), from which according to one theory the English word "ketchup" is derived. Two main varieties exist:
- Kecap asin: Salty soy sauce, which is very similar to Chinese light soy sauce, but usually somewhat thicker and has a stronger flavor; it can be replaced by light Chinese soy sauce in recipes.
- Kecap manis: Sweet soy sauce, which has a thick, almost syrupy consistency and a pronounced sweet, treacle-like flavor due to generous addition of palm sugar. It is a unique variety; in a pinch, it may be replaced by molasses with a little vegetable stock stirred in.
Kecap inggris ("English fermented sauce") is the Indonesian name for Worcestershire sauce. Kecap Ikan is Indonesian fish sauce.
Malaysian soy sauce
Malaysia which has cultural links with Indonesia uses the word 'kicap' for soy sauce. Kicap is traditionally of two types: kicap lemak and kicap cair. Kicap lemak is similar to kecap manis but with very much less sugar while kicap cair is the Malaysian equivalent of kecap asin. However the Indonesian style kecap manis has now its Malaysian equivalents due to the increasing number of Malay producers in what used to be a Chinese dominated industry. Kicap is an important condiment in Malay and Chinese Malaysian cuisine. Kicap has also entered the Malaysian Indian cuisine. A popular dish is the Indian Muslim 'daging masak hitam' which is basically beef or mutton stewed in a sweet spicy kicap-based sauce. Some people add some kicap to their rice and curry to spice up the meal. Many Malaysian children's favourite dish is rice with kicap and fried eggs.
Japanese soy sauce
Japanese soy sauce, or shō-yu - is traditionally divided into 5 main categories, depending on differences in their ingredients and method of production. Japanese soy sauces include wheat as a primary ingredient, and this tends to give them a slightly sweeter taste than their Chinese counterparts; they also have a somewhat alcoholic, sherry-like flavor. Japanese and Chinese soy sauces are not really interchangeable in recipes; Chinese dark soy sauce comes closer to the Japanese one in overall flavor, but not in the intensity of the flavor or the texture.
- Koikuchi - Originating in the Kantō region, its usage eventually spread all over Japan. Over 80% of the Japanese domestic soy sauce production is of koikuchi, and can be considered the typical Japanese soy sauce. It is produced from roughly equal quantities of soybean and wheat. This variety is also called Kijōyu or namashōyu when it is not pasteurized.
- Usukuchi - Particularly popular in the Kansai region of Japan, it is both saltier and lighter in color than koikuchi. The lighter color arises from the usage of amazake, a sweet liquid made from fermented rice, that is used in its production.
- Tamari - Produced mainly in the Chūbu region of Japan, tamari is produced mainly from soybeans, with only a small amount of wheat. Consequently, it is much darker in appearance and richer in flavour than koikuchi. It is the "original" Japanese soy sauce, as its recipe is closest to the soy sauce originally introduced to Japan from China. Technically, this variety is known as miso-damari, as this is the liquid that runs off miso as it matures.
- Shiro - A very light colored soy sauce. In contrast to "tamari" soy sauce, "shiro" soy sauce uses mostly wheat and very little soybean, lending it a light appearance and sweet taste. It is more commonly used in the Kansai region to highlight the appearances of food, for example sashimi.
- Saishikomi (twice-brewed) - This variety substitutes previously-made koikuchi for the brine normally used in the process. Consequently, it is much darker and more strongly flavored. This type is also known as kanro shoyu or "sweet shoyu".
Newer varieties of Japanese soy sauce include:
- Genen - Low-salt soy sauces also exist, but are not considered to be a separate variety of soy sauce, since the reduction in salt content is a process performed outside of the standard manufacture of soy sauce.
- Amakuchi - Called "Hawaiian Soy Sauce" in those few parts of the US familiar with it, this is a variant of "koikuchi" soy sauce.
All of these varieties are sold in the marketplace in three different grades according to how they were produced:
- honjōzō hōshiki - Contains 100% naturally fermented product.
- shinshiki hōshiki - Contains 30-50% naturally fermented product.
- aminosanekikongō hōshiki - Contains 0% fermented product; is a modified vegetable extract. This is referred to as "liquid aminos" in the US and Canada.
- tennen jōzō - Means no added ingredients except alcohol.
All the varieties and grades may be sold according to three official levels of quality:
- hyōjun - Standard pasteurized.
- tokkyū - Special quality, not pasteurized.
- tokusen - Premium quality, usually implies limited quantity.
- hatsuakane - Refers to industrial grade used for flavoring, powder.
- chōtokusen - Used by marketers to imply the best.
Perhaps the most well-known producer of Japanese soy sauce is the Kikkoman Corporation.
Korean soy sauce
Korean soy sauce, or Joseon ganjang is a byproduct of doenjang, Korean bean paste. Joseon ganjang, thin and dark brown in color, is made entirely of soy and brine, and is very salty. Except for occasional use for some traditional dishes, use of Joseon ganjang has been superseded by cheaper factory-made Japanese style soy sauce, called waeganjang by Koreans, introduced during the Japanese occupation of Korea, in typical households.
A study by National University of Singapore shows that Chinese dark soy sauce contains amounts of antioxidant 10 times that of red wine.
Soy sauce does not contain the beneficial isoflavones associated with other soy products such as tofu or edamame. It can also be very salty, so it may not be a suitable condiment for people on a low salt diet. Low-salt soy sauces are produced, but it is impossible to make soy sauce without using some quantity of salt.
In 2001 the UK Food Standards Agency found in tests of various soy sauces (those made from hydrolysed soy protein, rather than being naturally fermented) that some 22% of samples contained a chemical called 3-MCPD (3-monochloropropane-1,3-diol) at levels considerably higher than those deemed safe by the EU. About two-thirds of these samples also contained a second chemical called 1,3-DCP (1,3-dichloropropane-2-ol) which experts advise should not be present at any levels in food. Both chemicals have the potential to cause cancer and the Agency recommended that the affected products be withdrawn from shelves and avoided.