Saturday, August 11, 2012

Soy sauce substitute (Soy-sub) recipes

Read on for a collection of soy-free-soy-sauce (soy-sub) recipes.  Most of them are quick and simple to use and do more than simply imitate the flavour of soy.  This list is constantly growing, so check back from time to time.

I have what is called a latent onset allergy to soy, which means basically one day I couldn't eat soy any more.  I found it literally depressing at the time, especially since Japanese food is my all time favourite, but now a days I've become quite use to it.

Being allergic to soy basically means checking not just the ingredients but the ingredients of the ingredients of everything you eat.  For example, did you know that MSG (monosodium gultimate) is usually derived from soy?  As is most Lethicin used in North America.

When I started reading ingredients, I discovered that cinnamon can often have soy in it as an anti-caking agent.  Raisins are often coated with oil to stop them squashing together, and guess what, 9 time out of 10 the raisins in the local supermarket include soy.  Chocolate is a huge one for containing soy as it stabilizes the chocolate and makes it less subject to changing in warm conditions.

Manufactures of ready made food products often change their recipe and sometimes two packets of the same product on the same grocery store shelf can have surprisingly different ingredients.  When you are cooking for someone with any allergy, read each packets ingredients list CAREFULLY.  In Canada, even the ingredients have ingredients list: flour, raisins, butter, all these things can hide allergens you wouldn't suspect.

Like I said earlier, I adore Japanese food.  Living without soy sauce was really getting me down, so I came up with a few substitutes.

Soy sauce does a lot more in Japanese cooking than just make things taste salty.  It kills bad bacteria, it prevents spoiling, it changes how things cook, it is basically magic sauce.

Here, because the internet is apparently useless in this area, are a few possible...

Soy Free Soy Sauce Substitutes:

Or, as I tend to call them, Soy-Sub.

  • Salt and water, about 25% solution
    •  this helps to prevent food from spoiling but it is an awfully high amount of salt and I know people worry about their sodium intake these days.
  • 1ts fermented fish sauce, 1Tbs water, pinch of salt.
    • This was pretty standard for me for a few years.  Make sure you get the real fish sauce and not the stuff with soy in it.  It's really good for cooking vegetables dishes like kimpura.  The fermented fish sauce is super-healthy for you as there is something in the sauce that encourages your body to digest extra nutrition from the food you eat (see Sally Fallon for details on this and Nourishing Traditions for a really nifty recipe on how to ferment your own fish sauce)
    • This is not vegan friendly
  • Coconut aminos
    • A commercial product which is made from fermented coconut.  It's becoming easier to get these days.
    • Personally I cannot stand the taste of this as a seasoning sauce.  It tastes a bit oily to my tong.  However, when used to cook, especially when used for cooking something over a long time like this kombu recipe, it's rather pleasant and imparts a nice colour to the dish.  
    • I find it's also very nice when cooked with meats.

  • Rice-no-soy-soy-sauce
    • A friend of mine sent me this sauce from Japan, it's made from fermented rice and tastes like a mild soy sauce.  Although not as salty as I prefer, it acts like a light soy sauce in every way.  It cooks the same, it tastes the same, it keeps food fresh in my bento box lunch the same, it is virtually the same (only without the vomit afterwards).  Sadly, it's not very easy to get your hands on and I'm not sharing mine.  If I can discover more about it and where to get it, I'll let you know.
  • I've tried HP sauce watered down with water or sake, but I didn't find it very tasty.  Then again, I don't like HP sauce, so that could be the problem.

A few ideas I've been wanting to try:

  • Kombu dashi is something like I remember soy sauce, I wonder if I make a stronger dashi if this would serve as a flavour base?
  • Shio-koji.  I've heard hints that this can act as a substitute for soy sauce, but I haven't found any references to how that might happen.  It is salty and it is sweet, just like soy sauces, so I imagine it would be very similar to cook with, only perhaps be extra careful not to burn the shio koji.  It would also have the same preservation qualities as soy.

Common soy substitutes that may actually contain soy

  • Bragg is made from soy.
  • MSG is usually made from soy
  • tamari sauce is made from soy
  • oyster sauces often has soy in it and doesn't taste much like soy at all.
  • gluten free soy sauce has soy in it (just no wheat)
  • Most stock cubes have MSG or Hydrogenated Vegetable whatever, or other potentially soy ingredients, so using this to make a soy-sub is no guarantee to avoiding soy.  Also, I've heard that combining stock cubes with balsamic vinegar can trigger a soy reaction in some people even if the stock actually has no soy in it.   True or not, if you don't know the person you are cooking for intimately, best not risk it.

Please let me know if you find this useful.

ETA Aug 2012 - wanted to share this link with you.  I haven't tried it yet, but probably will later this week if I have time.  It's the first half decent looking recipe for a home made soy-sub that I've found in quite a while.

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