Soy Sauce Is The Ingredient You Should Start Adding To Stew

A few minutes into braising, while meticulously following an old-fashioned beef stew recipe, you notice your stew's color isn't as rich and appealing as you'd like it to be. Don't fret — there's an easy fix! Simply grab that bottle of dark soy sauce in your pantry and add some to the dish. This delicious and rich condiment, renowned for its versatility and distinctive taste, is your ticket to enhancing the color of your stew. What's more, it will give it a beautiful and new flavor profile. 

If you're wondering whether light soy sauce would work as well, the answer is yes. However, dark soy sauce has a more striking and deeper color and is also a bit sweeter than light soy sauce. In a pinch, either light or dark soy sauce will enhance your stew effectively. The best part is that integrating soy sauce into your stew is straightforward; adding a tablespoon during the braising process is perfect. It melds with the flavors of the meat and vegetables, intensifying the dish's depth and umami character.

Soy sauce binds and enhances flavors in stew

Soy sauce is rich in umami and owes its flavors to a time-honed fermentation process that involves soybeans, wheat, water, and specific fermentation cultures. During this process, proteins from soybeans and wheat break down, releasing amino acids, particularly glutamate. This glutamate gives soy sauce its pronounced umami taste.

In dishes like stews, where a medley of ingredients comes together in a simmering dance, soy sauce serves a dual role: It acts as a binder linking disparate flavors and as a savory flavor enhancer. Thanks to its glutamate richness, soy sauce — like monosodium glutamate (MSG) — seamlessly integrates and enhances the flavors of all the ingredients in the stew, making each spoonful harmonious, rich, and delicious.

Moreover, soy sauce appeals to our evolutionary food instincts. Rich brown colors in food signal thorough cooking or roasting, as well as the coveted Maillard reaction that browns butter and steaks. Over millennia, this association between deep brown shades and flavorful, safe-to-eat foods has become ingrained in our psyche, making such colors instinctively more appetizing. Thus, when soy sauce is added, it brings more than just taste; it taps into our primal cravings, making the stew even more irresistible. In short, start adding soy sauce to your stews.