As a condiment, soy sauce should not be consumed straight from the bottle. This isn’t because drinking condiments is strange (there are barbecue sauces worth downing by the pint), but because soy sauce—by itself—carries an aggressive umami flavor that is completely out of balance. The good news? According to Food52 Resident Lucas Sin, we can rectify this imbalance (and generally improve the condiment’s potential) by seasoning soy sauce at home. Here’s how.
The strong salty notes of soy sauce obviously have immense value during cooking (there’s a reason the global soy sauce market is valued at $48 billion), but, according to Lucas, the overwhelming umami flavor doesn’t make for the best condiment when poured straight from the bottle. “When we’re finishing dishes—let’s say you’re pouring something over a piece of steamed fish—you [shouldn’t] use it directly. You make seasoned soy sauce,” he said in an episode of In The Kitchen With Lucas Sin. To season, Lucas infuses soy sauce with aromatics, dilutes it with water, then balances its flavor with sugar and umami (like MSG). When complete, the condiment transforms into the perfect topping for any rice, fish, or eggs.
Here are Lucas’ key steps to seasoning soy sauce:
Step 1: Activate the Aromatics
Add neutral oil to a hot saucepan. Next, add thinly sliced shallots. Once the shallots begin to wilt, throw in some roughly chopped scallions and cilantro.
Step 2: Add Your Water and Soys
Add ¾ cup light soy sauce, ¾ cup water, and 2 tablespoons of dark soy. The dark soy sauce adds a subtle caramel flavor and darkens the color of the diluted soy sauce. (We spell out the differences between light and dark soy sauce here.)
Step 3: Add Flavor Boosters
Add a dash of Maggi (a sauce with even more umami than soy), and pinches of white sugar, MSG (chicken bouillon or mushroom powder would also work), and white pepper to the soy concoction. Simmer for 5 minutes.
These seasonings are customizable. For instance, if you’re planning to pour seasoned soy over steamed fish, Lucas recommends adding fish sauce or dried shrimp when flavoring your sauce.
Step 4: Strain, Chill, Enjoy
Pour your soy through a fine mesh sieve and into a heat-resistant bowl. Per Lucas’ advice, do not discard your soy-soaked aromatics—they are the perfect topping for a bowl of rice. Allow the strained, seasoned soy to reach temperature, then refrigerate and enjoy.
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Have you ever seasoned your soy sauce? Let us know in the comments below!