For some people, it is the Holy Grail of Low Sodium Cooking, Low Sodium Soy Sauce. The pre-bottled choices on the market today are obscenely high in Sodium, even the “Low” and “Reduced” Sodium varieties. So in order to reclaim many Asian dishes that became off limits when you live the low sodium lifestyle. The biggest culprit of of adding the sodium in Asian dishes are the sauces; soy, hoisin, fish, duck, etc.
To begin to hack the recipes of Asian dishes I love, I have to start with the sauces. With soy itself being the biggest component of bringing sodium, my recipe (like many others I have found online) recreates the flavors and spirit of soy sauce without actually containing soy. So we are going to explore my low sodium “soy” sauce.
Soy sauce is said to impart Umami in the recipes it is used. Umami is described as a strong meaty taste imparted by glutamate and certain other amino acids: often considered to be one of the basic taste sensations along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. It is also why MSG was a huge ingredient in many Asian dishes, as it is also rich in the Umami flavor.
I have tried several different recipes found online. They are all “kind of” close to the mark, but not quite there. Many come off as too vinegary, and not enough “meat” taste, which I am sure is also related to how much of that flavor profile is imparted by the salt we need to do away with. The first recipe I tried was Jessica Goldman Fuong’s Umami Sauce from her site Sodium Girl. Her recipe I tried is here. Another good recipe is from Dick Logue, from his recipe here. Both are solid, but both left me feeling like something was missing. So I went and set about trying to find the components that were missing.
For my version I headed further down the path of adding flavors that would bulk up the “meaty” aspect of soy, and also, something that would trick my tongue into thinking it was having salt. For the “meaty” I went with mushrooms. Mushrooms are the go to choice for non meat eaters to impart the sense of eating steak. I tried Shiitake and oyster mushrooms first as they easily reminded me of many Asian dishes. Those mushrooms were close, but when I used Portobellos, that was the ticket. The Portobellos soak up a lot of the spices just like a steak, and impart flavor like the juices that come from a grilled steak.
For the secret ingredient that would trick my tastebuds into thinking there was a lot of salt, I went with the ingredient I use in other dishes to impart the flavor and sense that you are getting a smoky salty taste – Liquid smoke. Liquid smoke is something I will use when a more meaty flavor is called for. One of the lowest sodium hot dogs I have found are Trader Joe’s uncured Chicken Hot Dogs. Honestly though, they taste nothing like a classic frank. That is until I cook them in a bath of onions, beer, and liquid smoke. They come out of that bath tasting like a classic hot dog.
I think this is the closest I have come so far in achieving a replacement for soy sauce. It works very well in Asian recipes I have done. Since I have perfected my soy sauce, now I do a low sodium Hoisin sauce. Here is my recipe for low sodium drunken noodles. I also rock a low sodium Thai Peanut Sauce. I hope you will enjoy this and let me know your thoughts, or what I can do to improve it. let me know in the comments!
- 1 Large cap Portobello Mushroom or 4 Baby Bellos - stems and ribs removed and finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Toasted Sesame or Almond oil
- 1 Tbsp Liquid Smoke I use the Wright's brand that is sodium free
- 1 tsp Molasses
- 2 Tbsp Low Sodium Beef Stock
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
- 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 1 clove garlic - minced
In a small saucepan or skillet, saute the mushrooms and garlic in the oil over medium high heat for 4 minutes, watch to make sure you don't burn the garlic.
Reduce heat to medium and add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer.
Allow the mixture to simmer for 8 minutes then reduce heat to low.
With a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and garlic, and place them into a strainer or cheesecloth, where you can press or squeeze as much juice as possible from the mushrooms and garlic back into the sauce.
Increase the heat to medium and allow the sauce to reduce by 1/4 (about another 6 minutes).
Store the sauce in a sealable jar or container and refrigerate.