Five Unexpected Ways to Use Soy Sauce
The secret to soy sauce is that it's loaded with umami, or the fifth taste. Some people describe it as “meatiness” or “savoriness,” but Andrew Hunter, Kikkoman Foodservice and Industrial Corporate Chef, thinks of umami as “the gateway to flavor.” Umami is only available in certain ingredients, and soy sauce is loaded with it.
“Even a small amount of soy sauce can enhance other flavors, which makes it a versatile addition to many cuisines, from Italian tomato sauces to Mexican fajita mixes and steakhouse sauces,” explains Hunter.
His approach to using soy sauce in unexpected ways is to either celebrate the fact that there's soy sauce in there and go with all Asian-influenced ingredients, or just add a small amount of soy to enhance traditional ingredients.
Here are five ways the Flavor Hunter uses Kikkoman Soy Sauce to enhance in some unexpected ways:
1. Zesty Tacos
Tacos dressed with a sauce of lime, lime zest, ponzu, sugar and soy sauce makes a colorful, bright finish.“I like to accentuate the citrus flavors with Kikkoman Ponzu Citrus Seasoned Dressing & Sauce with more citrus juice and zest, which creates freshness and vibrancy,” notes Hunter.
2. Chocolate Intensity
Soy sauce is a surprising enhancement to chocolate. Hunter describes a Kikkoman tasting exercise where he makes two versions of a chocolate sauce. One is a traditional recipe, and the other is the same recipe, but with a very small percentage of soy sauce. “In almost all cases, people prefer the soy sauce version,” Hunter notes. “They can't identify soy sauce in the chocolate sauce, but they detect more intensity from the boosted umami in the chocolate. You can either enhance the Japanese influence and sprinkle the chocolate sauce with sesame seeds, dried ginger and other elements of shichimi togarashi. Or you can just keep it as a traditional chocolate sauce with a flavor boost.”
3. Better Brines
Soy sauce is made with ingredients that are aged and fermented, which makes it a natural for enhancing the pickling process, especially in a brine of ponzu and other citrus juices and zests. Soy-enhanced pickled onions are another great way to finish sandwiches or steak.
4. Atop Avocado
Another unexpected way to use soy sauce is with grilled avocado. Cut an avocado in half, remove the pit, gently score it and put it on the grill, flesh side down. “Avocadoes absorb so much smokiness from grilling,” notes Hunter,“and the sweetness of the avocado is delicious dressed with a finish of soy-ponzu and furikake, a dry Japanese seasoning of dried fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar and salt.”
5. Salty Sweet
Soy sauce is a nice complement to sweet flavors, like brown sugar and dried maple sugar. “Salty-sweet combinations are really popular right now, and sprinkling fruit with a small amount of soy (even a dehydrated version) and maple sugar is really great,” says Hunter. “This works best with juicy fruit like strawberries, mangoes, pineapples and papaya.”