I remember back when I was in primary school, I would bring in the lunches my mum made me in bento boxes decorated with Disney and Sanrio characters. Those cute plastic boxes were my pride and joy. But as I would start eating, the comforting food that I would usually eat at home without hesitation became something I was hyperaware of as those who surrounded me would bring out their white bread sandwiches with cucumber and cheese fillings.
They would ask me what my food was. I would reply with an attempt to translate Japanese into English. Why was my food different from everyone else? I remember going home and crying to my mum about wanting to have the school cafeteria food instead of what she would pack. I was embarrassed of her food, but she didn’t get angry with me. She agreed, despite it being more expensive, and I had school dinners throughout the rest of primary school and secondary school. It seems as though when we’re children we are easy to become ungrateful for things we should value.
When I was in year 12 however, the appreciation of Asian culture – and food alongside it- became more widespread. Those same people who had white bread for lunch would go to Chinatown on the weekends and have Dim-Sum. Those same people now watch anime and ask me how to cook the Asian recipes I cook. And I feel happy and proud of my culture but also regretful for being ashamed of it when I was younger.
I forgive myself for my unreasonable shame by reminding myself that I never abandoned my heritage. Though I tried desperately to hide it away at school, at home I was still in love with my culture. Despite eating the cafeteria food for lunch, when I opened the kitchen cupboard to cook myself a meal at home, I knew that I would always see a bottle of soy sauce without fail. The 1 litre bottle with the bright red cap was difficult to miss when scanning my eyes across the contents of the shelf. It was and still is the holy grail of my cooking. My family would take turns in cooking meals for everyone, and it was the best feeling when my parents would tell me that what I had cooked was tasty.
Does something taste bland? Just add a drop of soy sauce. Its versatility has definitely saved me from starving at university.
Soy sauce is around £7 for the litre bottle from Tesco’s. But bulk buying an ingredient you’re not so used to can be daunting, right? Don’t worry, after reading this article you’ll have 3 different meals to use soy sauce in.
- Chicken thighs (thigh meat is juicier and definitely better than breast when making teriyaki chicken!).
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce.
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (if you want an alternative, you could use apple cider vinegar.) I apologise if buying this ingredient might be intimidating but it really is important! If you don’t know where you can buy this, they sell it at Seoul Plaza in Cannon Park.
- 1/2 a tablespoon of honey or sugar!
- Oil (sesame is best but you can honestly use any).
- Garlic, ginger and spring onions for garnish (optional but is really nice).
- I also like to put in chilli oil such as Lao Gan Ma Crispy Chilli Oil, but this is also optional! It does add depth to the dish though!
Add anything you want on the side! I usually eat it with rice and then fry or boil some vegetables so it’s a balanced meal.
The method to cook is really simple and quick.
- Add oil to the frying pan.
- Cook the chicken with the garlic and ginger.
- When the chicken is cooked, add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Or however much soy sauce to have an even spread over the chicken. However do note that sometimes too much soy sauce can be very salty!
- Add one tablespoon of rice wine vinegar and half a tablespoon of honey or sugar.
- Add 100ml of water.
- Have it simmer for 3-5 minutes. It should gradually become thicker and sticky.
- Finally, add chilli oil and spring onion!
Avocado Soy sauce salad
Okay! Avocado can be expensive so this might be a little bit over-budget. But I think when you feel like treating yourself then this is a great recipe to use.
- 1 avocado
- 1 cucumber
- Cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 a cup of soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
- Black pepper
- Red chilli, spring onions, sesame seeds, mayonnaise, egg (optional)
I usually eat this with rice (because I love rice) but you could put it on some toast aswell!
- Firstly we’re going to start with the sauce. In some tupper-ware or a dish add 1/2 a cup of soy sauce (8 table spoons), 1/2 a cup of water, 1 tablespoon of sugar, squeeze half a lemon (or 3 table spoons of lemon juice), black pepper and (optional) finely chopped red chillies, spring onions and sesame seeds.
- Cut avocado into strips, dice cucumber, and half the cherry tomatoes.
- Add all three to the sauce and stir it in softly, making sure to have the sauce cover all surfaces of the vegetables.
- Leave it to marinate for about 30 minutes in the fridge.
- Add it on top of rice, and you could also serve it with a fried egg and drizzle mayonnaise on top!
Soy Sauce fried rice
This is a quick and simple one which can be used as a side, or as a main if you add vegetables and chicken.
- Rice – I use basmati because I don’t particularly have sticky rice at uni. It works just as well in my opinion.
- Soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- Butter, (or sesame oil)
- 2 beaten eggs
- Spring onion
- Optional ingredients that I think would blend in well: cubed chicken, diced bell peppers, diced onion.
- Start off with frying the cubed chicken, diced bell peppers and diced onion. Then set it aside.
- In the frying pan, add butter and fry the egg. Lightly scramble the egg until the bottom is cooked but the top remains runny.
- Add the cooked rice and add soy sauce and a tablespoon of sugar. If you don’t know how much soy sauce to add, add enough that it makes the rice a medium brown colour.
- Add in the green onions and the cooked chicken, pepper and onion.
I do encourage you to try these recipes out yourself because they truly are delicious and easy to make. Soy sauce is a staple in most Asian cuisine and if you don’t want to spend money on eating out at restaurants such as Wagamama, you should take some time to try these recipes! There are also plenty of recipes to find online so that you can create authentic Asian food.