Sweet Soy Sauce, also known as “kecap manis“, is a thick, syrupy, and sweet version of traditional soy sauce originating from Indonesia. It is a versatile condiment used for marinating, stir-frying, dipping, salad dressing, and so much more.
What is Sweet Soy Sauce?
Sweet soy sauce or kecap manis is a sweetened aromatic soy sauce, originating in Indonesia. It has a thick, viscous syrupy consistency and dark color. It is made by combining soy sauce with palm sugar, which gives it a rich, molasses-like sweetness, and other herbs and spices for a layered flavor profile.
Sweet soy sauce is believed to be brought by Chinese migrants and traders who settled on Java, Indonesia’s most populous island. They initially introduced soy sauce and they then realized that the local Javanese people had a sweet tooth. Hence, the Chinese added palm sugar to soy sauce. That was how sweet soy sauce was born.
Soy Sauce vs Sweet Soy Sauce
These condiments have a soy sauce base, but the flavors and consistencies are quite different. Soy sauce is a thin sauce with a salty and savory flavor. Meanwhile, sweet soy sauce tastes sweet and salty due to the added palm sugar. It has a thick, syrup texture, and darker color.
Soy sauce for sweet soy sauce is produced in much the same way as traditionally made Chinese and Japanese soy sauce by using natural fermentation processes. Soybeans are cooked, mixed with a mold culture, fermented in brine to build the sauce’s deep-brown color and umami flavor, and pressed to separate the solids from the liquid, leaving raw soy sauce behind. The soy sauce is then combined with palm sugar, and depending on the producer, herbs and spices, such as lemongrass, galangal, star anis, kaffir lime leaves, are steeped in the mixture for a layered flavor profile.
Sweet Soy Sauce Brands
There are many brands of sweet soy sauce produced in Indonesia. These two brands, Bango and ABC, are the most popular sweet soy sauce brands used in many Indonesian households.
The ABC brand though is more common in Asian markets outside Indonesia. But if Bango is available, choose this brand for its thicker consistency, sweeter, and more full-bodied flavor.
Is Sweet Soy Sauce Gluten-Free?
Some sweet soy sauce brands contain gluten, so if you are avoiding it, you will want to check out the ingredients label on the bottles.
Sweet Soy Sauce Substitute
Make your own sweet soy sauce by mixing one part of soy sauce with one part of palm sugar or brown sugar by volume. For example, take one tablespoon of soy sauce and add one tablespoon of palm sugar if you only want a small amount. Briefly heat the mixture in the microwave and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Cooking with Sweet Soy Sauce
Sweet soy sauce is a versatile condiment used for marinating, stir-frying, dipping, and even as a base for salad dressing. The dark and glossy sweet soy sauce not only enhances the taste of the dishes but also adds an appealing glaze when drizzled on top. It pairs well with meats, vegetables, rice, and noodle dishes, adding a complex blend of sweetness and saltiness flavors.