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Soy sauce

An essential ingredient in Chinese and some Japanese cooking, and there is evidence that it was in popular use as long ago as the "Han" period of about 160BC. It was, and is, made from the liquid drained from fermented soya beans - the beans themselves then being made into soy "cheese" (a product which has been blamed for the high rate of stomach cancer in South-East Asia.

The big bottles of Soy Sauce on offer at Chinese supermarkets offer excellent value for money, but unlike Japanese soy, they are made by a short-cut method, which uses an extract and isn"t naturally fermented. Because of this, they don"t have the same depth of flavour. So pay your money and take your choice. Personally we use the Chinese for stir-fries and Japanese as a condiment - when the difference is more noticed.

There are two main types - "light", which is the best for stir-fries and "dark" (which has been aged for longer); this is better as a dipping sauce or for long-cooking braised dishes. Chinese mushroom soy sauce makes an interesting change. See also "Soya bean (Glycine Soja)"

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