You know what’s great? Butter. You know what else is great? Soy sauce. Despite loving both, you’ve probably never mixed them before. Well, dear reader, it’s time to start. The blend is incredibly easy to make — just lightly melt butter, either in a pan over low heat or a glass bowl in the microwave, before adding soy sauce and whisking — and yields equally incredible results. Best of all is the fact that you don’t need fancy versions of either component; the butter and soy sauce you already have in your fridge will work fine. The emulsion stays mixed after you cook it, meaning the soy and butter won’t separate into unappetizing chunks.
Butter + Soy Sauce = Umami
Known by some proponents as Asian-Fusion Soy Butter, part of why it’s so beloved is due to how pronounced the umami flavor profile is. Umami, one of the five basic tastes alongside sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, and sourness, comes from the Japanese word うま味 and can be translated as both “pleasant savory taste” and “deliciousness” — the perfect description of this brown butter sauce.
First identified by Kikunae Ikeda in 1908, umami has always been a bit harder to pin down and define than its four counterparts. Ikeda, a professor at Tokyo Imperial University, realized that glutamic acid was responsible for the savory flavor of several tasty foods and became the first person to prepare what he called 味の素, or “essence of flavor.” Today it's called monosodium glutamate (MSG), and most of what you’ve read about it isn’t true. Other foods rich in umami include everything from tomatoes and cheese to cured meats and mushrooms.
What Do You Do With Soy Butter?
Okay, back to the soy butter. Now that your mouth is watering, you’re probably wondering what to put your new favorite sauce on. You can keep it simple to start with and simply try it with rice, which is more delicious than it has any right to be, or be a bit more ambitious and use it as a steak marinade. Other go-tos include fish, vegetables, and stir-fry. (Some people are so passionate about soy butter they insist even “an old sneaker” would taste good doused in it, and they might be right.) Among the sauce’s more upscale enthusiasts are chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Wolfgang Puck, and Roy Choi.
Now, Let's Get Fancy
Once you’ve mastered the basic version, there are several other variants you can try. Some recipes include oyster sauce, while others like adding shallots and/or ginger; if you'd like something with more heat, feel free to throw some wasabi in there. It’s such a simple concoction that there’s plenty of room to tweak and experiment until you find the version that’s perfect for you. Just be warned that, once you start, you’ll probably want to put it on everything — including an old shoe.
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