It’s So Good It’s Soy Sauce

As an experiment a foodie friend suggested that I replace the salt I used in some of my recipes with a splash of soy sauce. “Soy sauce” I reply in a tone meant to convey interest while simultaneously rolling my eyes to convey skepticism, “ok, I’ll try that”. To my surprise and delight, substituting soy sauce for salt was a wonderful suggestion and really adding flavor and body to many of the recipes. I tried it with seafood, meat, vegetables, salad dressings even a few pasta sauces. The result of my experiment: A fresh, well balanced flavor without overwhelming other flavors in a dish. Cream sauces had a slightly nuttier flavor and tomato sauce seemed to be less acidic. While I can, absolutely recommend soy sauce as a change of pace, I still prefer to use it is in Oriental/Asian dishes specifically, stir fry sauces.

 Discovered in China more than 2,500 years ago, soy sauce is thought to be one of the world’s oldest condiments. It is a cornerstone of many Asian cuisines especially sauces. Soy sauce is never the main ingredient of any sauce, rather it’s the one ingredient that binds the others together to make the unique characteristics of the individual ingredients come together to “pop”.

 There are two types of natural soy sauce available (I say stay away from the synthetic stuff, I don’t think it tastes anywhere as good as the real stuff) to the inquiring cooking, light and dark soy sauce.

 Soy sauce is made from soybeans that are mixed with roasted grain (usually wheat, rice, or barley) and fermented for several months. Once the process is completed the mixture is strained and bottled. Dark soy is aged longer than light soy and has a darker color and thicker texture. Light soy is lighter in color and surprisingly has a saltier flavor. Light soy sauce is best used in stir fry cooking, as the darker color and stronger flavor of dark soy sauce can overwhelm the taste of light flavored ingredients. Dark soy is typically used in red meat dishes and is good for marinating. Some say that tamari sauce, a type of soy sauce made without wheat and using a different fermentation process is too sweet to be substituted for soy sauce. Not so, in my opinion. I do use it when I’m cooking a lighter fish or vegetable dish.

 The possibilities were endless and so are the recipes. The following recipes are a laundry list of classic sauces that can be use with your favorite vegetables, meats or seafood as well as a few recipes just for fun.

 STIR FRY SAUCE

1 1/ 2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/ 2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/ 2 teaspoon minced ginger
1/ 2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/ 8 teaspoon Tabasco
1/ 2 teaspoon salt
1/ 4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/ 2 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
1 1/ 2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon rice wine or sherry

In a small sauce pan heat the sesame oil. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry 15-30 second over medium heat. Add the chicken broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, Tabasco, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Bring just to a boil, stirring. In a small bowl dissolve the cornstarch in the wine and then whisk the mixture into the sauce. Heat until sauce thickens and reaches a full boil. Simmer for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and set aside. Stir fry your choices of meat or poultry till almost done, add the veggies, cook to heat throughout and then add the sauce. Cook just to heat and serve. Makes approx. 1 cup sauce. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

EFFORTLESS SZECHWAN SAUCE

Lots of ingredients but simple to make

1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1cup chicken broth
3 whole anise stars (optional)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/ 2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon 5 spice powder
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoon water

Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the ginger and garlic and saute 1minute until softened but not browned. In a bowl combine the remaining ingredients except for the cornstarch mixture. Add them to the saucepan and bring to a simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove star anise. Whisk in the corn starch mixture and let boil 1-2 minutes. Taste and add more Tabasco if desired. Makes

ORANGE STIR FRY SAUCE

2/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup tamari sauce
2 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoon Chinese sesame oil
2 tablespoon cornstarch

In a bowl combine the orange juice, tamari sauce, ginger, garlic, honey and sesame oil. Place the cornstarch into a bowl; whisk the liquid mixture into it. Set
aside, but keep the whisk handy, as you will need to whisk the sauce again
just before you pour it into the saute. Add this sauce to a wok, full of vegetables about 2/3 of the way through cooking. Make sure you stir your veggies so that the sauce coats them. Cook until the veggies are done and the sauce starts to thicken and then serve. Makes 1 cup.

GARLIC GINGER STIR FRY SAUCE

4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoon cornstarch
pinch of ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 to 2 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoon sherry or white wine

In a bowl mix all the ingredients together and set it aside. After stir-frying veggies or tofu or meat/seafood reduce the heat and add sauce. Stir for about 2 more minutes and then serve immediately. Makes 1/2 cup. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

BASIC BROWN SAUCE

3/4 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon oyster sauce, plus 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
In a saucepan combine all the ingredients, whisk together and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Serve with stir fry vegetables or meat. Makes 3/4 cup.

SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE

1/4 cup cold water
2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon soy sauce

In a bowl combine water and cornstarch, mix and set aside. In a small saucepan combine the pineapple juice, sugar, vinegar, ketchup and soy sauce. Stir over low heat until hot, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in cornstarch mixture until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

PEANUT SAUCE

1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste

Warm the chicken broth in a small saucepan and keep warm on low heat. Process the peanut butter, garlic cloves, cilantro and sugar in a blender or food processor. Slowly add the warmed chicken broth and process again. Remove from the blender and stir in the soy sauce, and the chili powder to taste. Serve peanut sauce with satay and salads, or as an appetizer dip. Makes 1 cup. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

KOREAN SESAME DIPPING SAUCE

This sauce can be served cold or room temperature for dipping and is great warm poured over steamed vegetables

3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 scallion, finely chopped
Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil and rice vinegar in a small bowl. In a small, heavy, dry skillet over medium heat, add the sesame seeds and stir until they darken a bit. Remove and crush seeds. Add to soy mixture with sugar and scallions. Makes 1/2 cup. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.
 
STIR FRY GREEN BEANS WITH PEANUTS

3 tablespoons peanut oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 inch ginger root, peeled and finely chopped

1 pound green beans, trimmed

4 green onions, sliced

1 cup white wine

1/2 cup unsalted peanuts

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

  Cut beans into one-inch slices. Heat peanut oil in wok until it just begins to smoke. Toss in garlic and ginger root. Add beans and onions and stir-fry for two minutes. Add wine, peanuts and sugar, and continue to stir-fry until the wine has evaporated. Add the soy sauce just before serving. Serves 4 to 6.

CHINESE TOMATO SPINACH SAUCE WITH BEEF

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sherry
1 tablespoon oil
2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 (28 oz.) can tomatoes, undrained, cut up
2 cups shredded fresh spinach
1 pound stir fry beef in thin strips

In a bowl combine the cornstarch, soy sauce and sherry. Whisk to combine and add pieces of beef. Toss to coat. Heat oil in large saucepan. Add beef mixture and stir fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the broth, tomatoes and spinach. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes and serve. Serves 3 to 4.

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