Soya sauce 101: Not all soya sauces are created equal

Some, like heritage brand Lee Kum Kee’s, are brewed to perfection, and come with different flavours to enhance any dish

Lee Kum Kee has over 20 varieties of soya sauces in its range, so it's easy to pick the right sauces for your cooking needs. PHOTO: LEE KUM KEE

From marinating meat and seasoning stir-fried vegetables to flavouring half-boiled eggs, the humble soya sauce is a pantry staple in every household and adds a touch of umami to our favourite meals.

For those of us who grew up watching our parents in the kitchen, we would be familiar with the smell and taste of Lee Kum Kee's traditional soya sauces that were used to flavour our childhood dishes.

In recent years, the 132-year-old heritage brand has come up with new varieties of soya sauces, each varying in taste, texture and function, to present new choices and flavours for customers. So, it's time to find out how you can pair Lee Kum Kee's assorted soya sauces with specific dishes and cooking methods.

Quality right from the start

A nutritious plant-based protein, soya beans are a rich source of polyunsaturated fats, fibre, antioxidants and essential nutrients required by the body.

Using only non-genetically modified (non-GMO) soya beans grown in a natural environment, Lee Kum Kee ensures that the starring ingredient of its products is of the highest quality.

Even the koji - a type of bacterial culture commonly used to make fermented food and drink such as soya sauce, sake and miso - that the brand uses is carefully cultivated to bring out the full essence of the soya beans during the fermentation process.

Brewed with only soya beans, wheat flour (or corn flour for the gluten-free version), salt and water, the finished products are ideal options for those who are discerning about quality and taste.

Only the highest quality, non-GMO soya beans make their way into Lee Kum Kee's soya sauces. PHOTO: LEE KUM KEE

The makings of a great sauce

Combining artisanal craftsmanship with cutting-edge machinery in its production lines, Lee Kum Kee's manufacturing plants have been producing premium, flavourful sauces for the past 132 years.

In fact, it prides itself on its stringent quality control philosophy of "100-1=0" - meaning a single mistake would render all its previous successes moot. By adhering to this guiding principle, Lee Kum Kee has grown to become the household name it is today.

The taste and quality of soya sauce is largely determined by the fermentation process. Using the traditional brewing method of natural fermentation - a process that takes between three to six months - is believed to help develop its flavour.

Soya sauces brewed this way, like Lee Kum Kee's, tend to have a light, bright reddish-brown colour, with a delicious aroma of fermented soy and a clean, pleasant aftertaste.

After the soya beans have been washed, they're soaked in water to soften them up before steaming. Once they have cooled, they're introduced to bacterial culture to kick-start the koji cultivation process. The mixture is then left to sit and ferment in brine.

When it's ready, it is strained and pasteurised to make it safe for consumption. Different flavours are then added to a portion of the brew to create the unique varieties of soya sauces that Lee Kum Kee is known for. From there, it gets bottled and shipped to supermarkets all over the world.

Know your soya sauces

A simple way to level up your cooking while working from home is to make sure that you pair the right seasoning or marinade with your dishes.

Launched in the 1990s, Lee Kum Kee's soya sauce range has since expanded to include more than 20 varieties to suit different tastes and culinary needs.

Here's a quick primer on the best uses of its soya sauces:

  • For general seasoning: Go for Light Soy Sauce, which helps bring out the umami flavour of food.
  • For stir-fried dishes and dipping sauces: Use Premium Light Soy Sauce, which has a more mellow taste and a distinctly refreshing aroma.
  • For braised meat and red-cooked stews: Try Premium Dark Soy Sauce, which boasts a complex, full-bodied flavour and caramelised aroma.
  • For bringing out the essence of seafood: The Seasoned Soy Sauce for Seafood awakens the palate, and makes steamed fish especially tasty.
  • For enhancing the flavour of any dish: First Draw Soy Sauce contains the best drops from the first extraction of soya sauce brewing, giving it a more delicate flavour.
  • For the conscious consumer: The Gluten Free Soy Sauce and Organic Soy Sauce are ideal options that offer the same rich, savoury taste.

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