A few of our recipes call for seasoned soy sauce as an alternative to light soy sauce. While you could certainly forego the seasoned soy sauce and just use regular light soy sauce, Chinese seasoned soy sauce can add an extra oomph of flavor to dishes.
In this quick article, we’ll talk about what it is, how it’s used, and how to find it at your local Chinese market.
What Is Seasoned Soy Sauce?
There are many different kinds of soy sauce that may have additional seasonings to enhance their flavor. For instance, Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) is flavored with galangal, star anise, and other aromatics.
The seasoned soy sauce we’re talking about here, however, is Chinese seasoned soy sauce (蒸鱼豉油, zhēng yú chǐ yóu), which is meant to be used in Cantonese/Southern Chinese cooking for steamed fish and seafood dishes like our Cantonese Steamed Fish Fillets, our Steamed Whole Fish, or Steamed Scallops with Glass Noodles. That’s why it’s often labeled, “Seasoned Soy Sauce for Seafood.”
This type of seasoned soy sauce is sweeter and has a little more umami than regular light soy sauce.
Essentially, it is a Chinese light soy sauce with added sugar and MSG (or other MSG-like flavor enhancers like disodium guanylate), which could be a good or bad thing, depending on who you’re talking to! Some cooks have no issue with MSG and others avoid it!
How Is It Used?
It is usually added to light Cantonese sauces in steamed seafood/fish dishes, in addition to ingredients like ginger, scallions, cilantro, and oil.
These dishes have a very light and pure flavor, so the sweeter character of seasoned soy sauce works well. The extra MSG doesn’t hurt the flavor either! It’s also a good option for dipping sauces or for flavoring soups.
It can generally be used interchangeably with light soy sauce, but it should always be added at the end of the cooking process. It will lose some of its umami flavor if cooked for too long.
If you don’t have seasoned soy sauce for our seafood dishes, no worries. Those recipes are just as good when regular light soy sauce is used!
Buying & Storing
Look for soy sauces labeled “Seasoned Soy Sauce for Seafood.”
Lee Kum Kee and Pearl River Bridge both make it, as does Kikkoman. We usually keep a small bottle in our pantry, and buy Pearl River Bridge brand most often (usually because they sometimes bundle a small bottle of it with their light soy sauce, which we buy all the time).
Store in a cool, dry place like the pantry. No need to refrigerate.
Substitutions for Seasoned Soy Sauce
If you’d like to avoid MSG or other flavor enhancers altogether, simply use light soy sauce where seasoned soy sauce is called for. You can also add a pinch of sugar to replicate its sweetness.
Our Favorite Dishes That Use This Ingredient:
- Cantonese Steamed Fish Fillet
- Steamed Whole Fish
- Steamed Scallops with Glass Noodles
- Hot and Sour Soup
- Hong Kong Style Clay Pot Rice Bowls
- Vegetable Fried Rice
If you have further questions about seasoned soy sauce, let us know in the comments––we try to answer every single one.