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Soy sauce is most often thought of as a dark, salty condiment used in Asian cooking. While this may be true, varieties like white soy sauce are clearer and golden in color, with milder flavor coming from a predominance of wheat, not soy. This translates to a similar imparting of flavors — only it is milder in taste with no darkening of the recipe.
White soy sauce differs from regular soy sauce in very specific ways. The coloring is the easiest to distinguish, with black soy sauce deeply dark and white soy being often golden in hue. Soy sauce is made with either all soybeans or a mixture of 80 percent soybeans and 20 percent wheat or even equal parts soy and wheat. These ingredients are boiled or roasted, then combined with a starter mold that is later combined with salt and more water. All the ingredients then undergo a long fermentation process of four months or more.
White soy sauce, by contrast, will be either completely wheat or a mixture of about 80 percent wheat to just 20 percent soy. According to the makers of popular Japanese brands of white soy like Golden Tamari Sauce or Takumi White Soy Sauce it is likely that no soybeans will be used in the production of white soy at all. The fermentation is often terminated after about three months to keep the liquid from darkening and the flavor from intensifying too much.
The ratio of wheat to soy in this type of soy sauce depends on the manufacturer. Some recipes use no soybeans at all. Others may use a mixture, also adding sugar for a slight change of flavor profile. According to the White Soy Sauce Food Co. in Visalia, California, perhaps the most prized variety of white soy is called white golden tamari, as it does not undergo a heat fermentation and combines salty and sweet tones.
These are just a few of the many Asian sauces used in traditional Asian cooking. For a completely clear condiment that will not color a recipe, cooks might use a very clear white soy or go in a different direction all together with fish sauce or tamarind paste. Just as traditional dark soy can be used in various recipes, from soups and sauces to marinades and dipping sauces, so too can white soy, only without the darkening of the dish's color and often a less salty and overbearing flavor.