I currently have three — three! — kinds of soy sauce in my refrigerator. So why is it that I can’t make a decent stir-fry?
I really do find it astounding that I’m the proud(?) owner of three varieties of the stuff that they give you for free at Chinese takeout restaurants. But the saltwater that they put in those plastic packages is absolutely vile, so buying myself a bottle of Pearl River Bridge soy sauce was a no-brainer. If you can get your hands on that brand, I really recommend it! I’m sure I needed a bottle of dark soy sauce for a teriyaki recipe or something, so I grabbed a bottle of that at some point, too.
But when I pulled a recipe out of my Thai cookbook this weekend, I was required to add to my collection by purchasing sweet soy sauce, also known as kecap manis, which I didn’t even know existed until just now. I’d go to the trouble of describing for you what sweet soy sauce tastes like, but if you just add some molasses to your regular soy sauce, it’s pretty much just that.
The dish, a Thai take on beef with broccoli in a nam pla/sweet soy sauce, was a bit overly-sweet and generally flat. Which means it’s exactly like every other stir-fry sauce I seem to try. I’ve varied all elements…soy, mirin, garlic, sherry, ginger, oyster sauce, sesame oil…you name it. But I just can’t seem to get a brown sauce that ever measures up to decent take out.
So I’m begging you, dear readers: Does anyone have a foolproof recipe or set of ingredient ratios that can help me out? I’m perfectly happy to keep ordering out — I can’t get my scallion pancake as good as they do at China King — but I’d like to be able to whip up a good weeknight chicken and string beans every now and then!