Soy sauce is a fermented liquid made from soybeans and roasted grain, usually wheat, but sometimes barley or rice. It is used throughout Asia to enhance flavor and contribute complexity to food. Though Chinese-style soy sauce is the most familiar, It can vary quite a bit from region to region. It was first brewed in China and later in Japan.
Japanese soy sauce, known as shoyu, is sweeter and less salty than Chinese soy sauce (left). Meanwhile, Indonesian soy sauce (right), known as kecap (pronounced like “ketchup”), a catch-all term for fermented sauces, is sweeter than the Japanese and Chinese styles. There are many varieties of kecap, but kecap manis, often labeled “sweet soy sauce,” is easily the sweetest. It’s very dark and thick, like a syrup, due to the ample palm sugar added during cooking. It’s typically seasoned with various ingredients, including garlic and star anise. It can be used in sauces for rice or noodles or as a dipping sauce for dumplings, rolls, or dim sum.
In a pinch, sweet soy sauce can be made by combining regular soy sauce with brown sugar or molasses and then boiling until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce is thick and syrupy.