Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spring Onion Soy Sauce

Spring Onion Soy Sauce on Steamed Tofu

What’s your favourite sauce?

Sauces play an important role in food – it adds flavour, moisture, and visual appeal to a dish. If there is sauce for a dish, I’m someone that loves to have lots of the sauce. Every cuisine is also known for a sauce. Italian food would commonly be associated with a tomato pasta sauce, think of a British roast dinner and gravy comes to mind, get Mexican with a mole, Spanish are salsas and what would French food be without its sauces? There are five mother sauces (also called grand sauces) that make up the cornerstone of classic French cuisine – sauce béchamel, sauce espagnole, sauce velouté, sauce hollandaise and sauce tomate.

One of the key and most widely used sauces in Chinese cooking is soy sauce. It’s an all-purpose liquid seasoning which is often used in place of salt. It’s added to stir fries, braising dishes and used as a dipping sauce. I am quite content with a bowl of hot steamed rice with a drizzle of soy sauce on top and I love having scrambled eggs with soy sauce.

The two main types of soy sauce used in Chinese cooking are light and dark. Light soy sauce is lighter in colour and texture, saltier than dark soy sauce and used more often than dark soy sauce. Please note that light does not mean that it contains less salt, it’s low fat or some healthier variety. Always use light soy sauce in a recipe unless dark is specified. Dark soy sauce is aged much longer than light soy giving it a brownish-black colour and thicker texture.  Dark soy sauce has a mellower, less salty flavour, and is used more as a colouring agent than for flavour. If you ever wondered how a meat dish got its brown colour, it’s from dark soy sauce. When I first started learning to cook I remember watching my mum in the kitchen and asking her how the meat changes colour. I thought that the longer you cook it, the browner it will get but the answer was the use of dark soy sauce, just keep adding dark soy sauce until you get the desired colour. You can add as much dark soy sauce as necessary to a dish without fear of it becoming too salty. Dark soy sauce is used in Chinese red cooking where you slowly braise meat so that it imparts a rich dark red-brown colour, which is a result of the caramelisation process from the interaction of the sugar and dark soy sauce, and aromatics are provided by ingredients such as chillies, star anise and cinnamon (for example see my Hong Shao Rou dish).

I use Pearl River Bridge brand of soy sauces. You can just get dark soy sauce but I like my dark soy sauce infused with a little mushrooms flavour.

I generally use a combination of light and dark soy sauce, varying the quantities depending on what I am cooking to achieve the right balance of flavour and colour for the dish. But if a dish requires soy sauce and doesn’t need a dark colour like a stir fry, I will only use light soy sauce. The soy sauces may be added at different stages of the cooking process, where if you are slow braising/cooking/stewing, dark soy sauce may be added at the beginning to develop the colour and then season to taste with the light soy sauce for flavour at the end.

What’s the best thing to make with soy sauce?

Try this spring onion soy sauce recipe that my dad taught me. It requires only a few ingredients and can be made in a matter of minutes. Pour it over some steamed tofu or poached chicken and you have a great simple meal.  

Spring Onion Soy Sauce on Slices of Steamed Chicken

Spring Onion Soy Sauce

(An original recipe Blue Apocalypse learnt from her dad)

(makes about 1 cup)


  •     4 tablespoons water
  •     2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  •     ½ tablespoon dark soy sauce
  •     a few drops of sesame oil
  •     2 teaspoon sugar (or to taste)
  •     pinch of white pepper
  •     pinch of salt
  •     1 teaspoon grated ginger
  •     1 cup of spring onion, finely diced
  •     ~ ½ - 1 teaspoons of cornflour (mixed with a little water)

Heat the water, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, pepper in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolves. Then add in the ginger and spring onion and cook until the spring onion is soft, don't overcook it (30-60 seconds). Stir in some cornflour mixed with a little water to thicken the sauce, just add in a little at a time and stir until you get desired consistency.

1 comment:

  1. Oh I love the spring onion sauce... I can see that going so well with a lot of things... :D