Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Cook's Illustrated does soy sauce
Disclaimer: none of the soy sauces in this photo were reviewed by Cook's Illustrated.
When I saw that the January/February 2007 issue of Cook's Illustrated had an article featuring soy sauces, I admit it, I got excited. Still, the first sentence of the piece indicated that I might not be the target audience for the article: "Most of us have rarely given soy sauce a second thought, using it as a kind of liquid salt." I suppose naming one's food blog after soy sauce doesn't qualify as rarely giving it a second thought (let alone keeping at least seven different varieties on hand).
Cook's taste-tested 12 soy sauces (or 11 soy sauces and La Choy's simulcrum of soy sauce based on hydrolized soy protein, if you prefer); two were Chinese soys while the others were Japanese-style soy sauces (four of them tamari). The sauces were tasted straight, served with warm rice, and used as an ingredient in teriyaki sauce.
Rather than easily crowning the single best soy sauce, the Cook's testers found that different soy sauces excelled at different applications. The ones with the most complicated and subtle flavor profiles did best when tasted straight and were recommended for use in dipping sauces. Simpler soys with stronger flavors held up better when cooked, however. Two soy sauces won the "Recommended" rating: Lee Kum Kee's mass-produced tabletop soy sauce and Ohsawa's traditionally-produced nama shoyu. Lee Kum Kee's sauce won the rice and teriyaki tests, while Ohsawa won the plain tasting.
Soy sauces tested, other than the ones previously mentioned, were:
Eden Organic Naturally Brewed Tamari Soy Sauce
Eden Organic Shoyu Soy Sauce
Eden Organic Traditionally Brewed Tamari Soy Sauce
Kikkoman All-Purpose Soy Sauce
Kikkoman Naturally Brewed Organic Soy Sauce
Kikkoman Naturally Brewed Tamari Soy Sauce
Pearl River Bridge Superior Light Soy Sauce
San-J Naturally Brewed Tamari Premium Soy Sauce
San-J Organic Shoyu Naturally Brewed Soy Sauce
The article is a pretty good introduction to soy sauce, especially for those who haven't given it much thought before. Those who've already started stocking a range of soy sauces so as to be appropriately equipped for whatever Asian cuisine they happen to be cooking on a given night may find it a bit elementary.
I have to admit that the heavy emphasis on Japanese soy sauces with a couple of Chinese soy sauces thrown in took me aback. It's not quite like comparing apples and oranges, but they aren't interchangeable, at least not when cooking Asian food. On the other hand, comparing an assortment of soy sauces ranging from Japanese shoyu to Chinese mushroom soy to Indonesian kecap manis really would be comparing apples to oranges to bananas. The best rule of thumb is still to use a soy sauce that hails from the same country as the dish you're cooking (or is at least made in the same style; it would be silly to disallow Kikkoman's soy sauces from Japanese cooking if they happen to come from Kikkoman's Wisconsin plant).