Is Shoyu and Soy Sauce the Same?
Yes. “Shoyu” is just the Japanese name for “soy sauce”. It’s based on Chinese, “soy yu”, which means “soy sauce”.
There are, however, many different types of soy sauce! You don’t realize this unless you live near a Chinese or Vietnamese market, because they tend to carry more varieties than the other Asian markets, which tend to carry only the soy sauce for their specific ethnicity, and maybe a bottle of Kikkoman.
You walk into the supermarket, and there’s fifty different brands and types of soy sauce!
Korean soy sauce is called “ganjang.”
Vietnamese soy sauce is called “xì dầu.”
Can You Substitute Shoyu for Soy Sauce? Are there different Soy Sauces?
I said they were the same thing. Short answer: sure. Long answer: not really. If someone is calling it “shoyu” they are either Japanese, Japanese American, or from Hawaii.
However, the name “shoyu” doesn’t refer to a specific style.
Japanese style shoyu is salty and brewed with wheat and soybeans. It’s dark brown, and very salty. Traditionally you use only a few drips here and there.
The main other styles are Chinese light, and Chinese dark.
“Aloha Shoyu“, made in Hawaii, contains some sugar, and is a little lighter, so it is closer to Chinese light soy sauce.
To confuse the issue more, if you see “shoyu” on any bottle in a store, it’s most likely to be Aloha brand — an American brand. The Japanese brands use “soy sauce” on their labels. The main Japanese brand is Kikkoman, and is sold everywhere.
Chinese light is similar to Japanese, but has some sugar in it, and is a little lighter. That said, I wouldn’t hesitate to use Chinese light soy sauce in place of Japanese soy sauce.
Chinese dark soy sauce is a thick, almost black, and more sweet sauce. I would not substitute this for the other soy sauces.
There’s also Vietnamese, Filipino, and Korean versions of soy sauce.
Should you Dip Or Dunk in Soy Sauce?
This goes back to the type of sauce. Japanese sauce is really salty, so it is good for a quick and minimal dip.
So you dip the corner of your sushi to get a few drops of shoyu.
Chinese light, or Aloha, which is lighter and a little sweet, is better for dunking. You can pour it over your dim sum or rice noodles rolls.
You don’t need to know the brand or type. Just do a taste test, so you know how salty the sauce is. Don’t assume it’s not going to be super-salty, because, sometimes, it is. Make this “common sense” – taste the sauce before you use it.
What’s the Difference Between Soy Sauce and Tamari?
Tamari is made without wheat. Other than that, it’s like soy sauce.
Tamari is gluten free, so you can eat it if you have a wheat sensitivity or celiac’s disease.
Is Soy Sauce made with Hydrolyzed Protein?
Some are. Generally, the cheaper sauces are made this way. The sauce packets for Chinese takeout are often made this way. The stuff tastes more like salt water than anything else, but it’s not terrible.
Why do they do this? Because American customers want a lot of packets, and douse their food with soy sauce.
Asian customers tend to use less soy sauce, and some are really picky about the specific brand, and won’t take the packets. They use their own preferred sauce, at home.
Are there any Substitutes for Soy Sauce and Shoyu?
Coconut aminos, Braggs, and Maggi sauce.
What are Coconut Aminos?
They’re a substitute for soy sauce, but lower in sodium. You can find these in health food stores.
Bragg’s is another amino acid sauce, available in health food stores.
Another similar substitute is Maggi sauce. It uses hydrolyzed vegetable protein, like the cheap soy sauce packets. You can find this at Asian markets and Latino markets.
Maggi, itself, is a European brand. If you have a European market, you will find it there… but there aren’t many European markets. There’s something ironic about this.
What is Teriyaki Sauce?
The most basic teriyaki sauce is sugar and soy sauce.
A more advanced type is sugar, soy sauce, and mirin. Mirin is a rice-wine-based sugared seasoning.
You can get a pretty good flavor with brown sugar, soy sauce, and a little rice wine.
Then, you have entire recipes involving ginger, garlic, onion, and the like.
I generally do not like bottled teriyaki sauce, but Sweet Baby Ray’s is really good. It’s thick, and suitable for glazing. I would argue that the most important use case for teriyaki is glazing, and it makes sense to thicken a teriyaki sauce with honey and corn syrup.
Best Shoyu, Soy Sauce, and Tamari Brands
Kikkoman, Yamasa, Kimlan, Lee Kum Kee, Sempio, Chung Jung One, Aloha.
You can also do what I have done, and just buy small bottles of different sauces and try them out.