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It's common for recipes to call for both light and dark soy sauce mixed together.

Is there a specific rationale for doing this, such as a specific interaction between these two ingredients when cooked together, or is this simply a method to dilute dark soy\increase the flavor of light soy?

4 Answers 4

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Light soy sauce is added for flavor: it has more umami (from glutamate) and frequently more salt than dark soy sauce.

Dark soy sauce is added mainly for color, particularly when you're mixing your soy sauces with several other clear liquids. It also has some sweetness that light soy sauce doesn't.

Ref: Hot Thai Kitchen

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  • That’s honestly not what I would’ve expected. Neat Mar 9 at 23:48
  • I disagree with this. I cook a lot with dark soy sauce. It has a much deeper, richer, and more complex flavor profile than light soy sauce. Have you tasted the two side-by-side?
    – myklbykl
    Mar 12 at 18:10
  • I'm going to stick with the advice of the Thai chef with two award-winning cookbooks, thanks.
    – FuzzyChef
    Mar 12 at 18:11
  • Appeal to authority is not useful here. There are many books, sites, and articles that discuss light vs dark soy sauces (and all the many varieties of these and others) that you may want to consult. Or, read some of what people like Kenji have written. But I'd try them both yourself. Keep in mind that soy sauces straight from the bottle will taste different from cooked soy sauces, and their effect on foods is complicated, so tasting them side-by-side from the bottle doesn't give you the whole picture. You need to taste them in actual dishes to understand the differences they impart.
    – myklbykl
    Mar 12 at 18:36
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    I did post an answer. I am a certified chef and food science instructor (I also teach other cooking and baking classes). I personally work with many respected authorities, including people like Harold McGee and chefs and scientists in many fields related to food. I have plenty to learn like everyone, but I'm just trying to contribute what I can. I still disagree with your answer, but I'm sorry if my note was offensive to you. I really did not intend that. You have been very generous with your time on this site.
    – myklbykl
    Mar 12 at 18:58
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Dark soy sauce has a richer, more complex, and less salty flavor compared to light soy sauce. It's also a bit sweeter and has notes of molasses and caramel. It's also thicker and obviously darker in color.

Dark soy sauce is sometimes used in cooking to add color, but most importantly for me as a chef, it adds a depth of flavor that light soy sauce does not. Light soy sauce is great for both seasoning (i.e. salt) and umami (glutamates) as well as its own flavor profile.

Dark soy sauce is fermented and aged much longer than light soy sauce. This extended aging increases complex flavor development and gives it a thicker consistency and a darker color. Think of 25-year DOP balsalmic vinegar compared to the crap they try to pretend is from Modena in your grocery store.

Dark soy sauce isn't typically used as a table sauce like light soy sauce, but try it on scrambled eggs. Yum.

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    Aha, I think we're having some labelling problems here! The problem is that the term "dark soy sauce" can be used to refer to several different products. In your answer, you're refering to aged, naturally fermented soy sauce. In my answer, I'm referring to the standard Thai "weak soy sauce fortified with molasses and roasted wheat", which is what generally appears as "Dark Soy Sauce" there. This also shows up in Chinese cuisine. The world-popular Pearl River Bridge Dark Soy is the fortified-with-molasses kind.
    – FuzzyChef
    Mar 12 at 19:12
  • I'm not sure how 'world popular' Pearl River Bridge is - it's hard to get in the UK. I've seen it but never bought it or tasted it. Far more likely to get Kikkoman, Lee Kum Kee or Amoy here. I use Kikkoman for almost everything, unless I want to specifically avoid the distinctive flavour, then I'll use whatever generic 'Chinese' one I got from the supermarket - I can barely tell the difference between those once they're in the food.
    – Tetsujin
    Mar 26 at 10:33
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It is simply to obtain a desired balance between the flavours, and perhaps also consistencies, of the ingredients. If you only have one available then use that.

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    Could you describe what these desired elements are? Mar 9 at 18:05
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Keep in mind that light soy sauce and dark soy sauce are fundamentally different foods, with different ingredients and preparation steps. They aren’t differing concentrations or shades of the same thing.

So they are mixed when both ingredients’ contributions are desired, the same as with any other ingredients.

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    Could you specify what the desired contributions are? Mar 9 at 18:05
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    Their different tastes. Have you tasted them?
    – Sneftel
    Mar 9 at 18:16
  • Well, and the color of dark soy sauce, I suppose.
    – Sneftel
    Mar 9 at 18:16

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