Hey Chef, What Can I Do With Soy Sauce?

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Welcome to Hey Chef, a series where we ask pros around the country for tips on how to use ingredients we love. Last time we talked about bitter greens. Up today: soy sauce beyond stir fries.

We're far beyond the days of only finding soy sauce at sushi bars or Chinese restaurants, but if you have big bottle of soy sauce at home you'll be surprised to know just how often you can use it in all sorts of recipes. While we're fans of soy as an added kick of savoriness in soups, chili, and stews, what about warm weather dishes? Read on for some ideas.

Soy Roasted Nuts

[Photograph courtesy of Boka]

Lee Wolen held a sous chef position at Eleven Madison Park in New York for three years before heading over to Chicago's Boka, where he breathed new life into the ten-year-old restaurant's menu.

It's great as a salt substitute—not to say it's any less salty, but it's a flavor versus salt being a flavor enhancer. My dad used to toss almonds or peanuts in soy sauce and then roast them for a few hours for a snack. Now I love making soy-roasted almonds; you soak them for an hour or two in soy sauce, and then dry roast them in a low oven at about 150 degrees for four to five hours.

Make Flavored Soy Sauce


[Photograph: Kelly Greer]

Sam Choy is part of a generation of Hawaiian chefs who put a new emphasis on local ingredients and regional cooking techniques. He has a weekly cooking show, Sam Choy's Kitchen, and has penned 16 cookbooks along with regular television and competition appearances.

I like to take my soy sauce and season it with fresh stuff to make it lighter instead of so full-powered. It's like when a baker makes a pie—you don't want someone's first bite to be so salty that they only have a couple more.

I cut soy sauce with water, then heat up some sesame oil and pour it in, then add onions and peppers. And infuse the sauce at room temperature. I make five or six versions—my current favorite has garlic, ginger and fresh cilantro blended right in, and it's really nice for fried rice. Shiso leaves are another great one, or yuzu or ponzu added in which is nice drizzled over steamed fish or made into salad dressing.

I do an unfried "fried rice" with sautéed vegetables and infused soy sauce, sometimes with a little ponzu sauce, that people go nuts for. You steam brown rice, add your sautéed vegetables and egg, and work in an infused soy sauce, maybe a spicy one with a little kick. The rice has so much flavor but is much healthier than typical fried rice.

Use it With Eggs

[Photograph courtesy Girl & the Goat]

Stephanie Izard is a Top Chef winner and owner of Girl & The Goat and Little Goat Diner in Chicago, where a rooftop means a party and most things get kissed by the wood grill.

We use it to season our scrambled eggs, so in our omelets at the diner you don't need to use salt. We have our cracked eggs all whipped up and then just drop in a few drops of soy sauce. I thought, rather than having an uneven layer of salt on top of your eggs, why not add the seasoning from the start? We actually use tamari to keep it gluten free. I love the taste of tamari; I think it started with those tamari crackers you can get out of Whole Foods that I was eating the crap outta and then was like, "Oh, what's tamari? Oh! Gluten-free soy sauce; we should use that!" It's awesome.

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