Soy sauce (or toyo) is an indispensable pantry staple in Asia. The Chinese-invented condiment is made using fermented soybean, wheat, and brine; and has a strong salty, umami flavor, making it an ideal seasoning agent. Apart from being used to add saltiness to a dish, the versatile ingredient makes for a great base or complement in making sauces on the side. We tried five local supermarket brands—alone and used in a dish (in this case, we made bistek Tagalog). How do they compare?
Coconut Brand’s entry is more oyster sauce than soy sauce. But that said, it’s not good either way. It has an odd metallic flavor; and once cooked, it puts on a yellowish hue, indicating that there’s some kind of dye present. The rusty taste dissipated a bit in the bistek, but it had a tannic aftertaste that made one of our team members’ tongue go numb.
Datu Puti already loses off the bat because it’s produced by NutriAsia—a shame because we can say that this dark and salty soy sauce tastes the most like soy beans. It’s pretty intense, though, translating to a very salty bistek. But a few more pieces of calamansi would’ve balanced it out.
Marca Piña’s soy sauce has a chemical-like flavor comparable to Coconut Brand, just not as forward. We got mixed reviews on this one, though pretty much all negative. Some of us just found it bland and unremarkable once cooked. But the others said it was “the worst tasting [one],” claiming it as tasting even more offensive than Coconut Brand.
Mother’s Best also has a metallic-y profile, but is masked with a mild citrus flavor. The latter comes out even more once cooked, making the best bistek out of the bunch. Although, being more toyo–mansi than just toyo, it’s not as versatile as you’d want the condiment to be.
Silver Swan’s soy sauce is a safe choice. It’s not too strong, not too salty; though, it is a tad watery. It made a pretty good bistek, with “just the right amount of [saltiness.]” Plus, it evoked a sort of home-y feeling—like it was the type of bistek made by someone who knows bistek was your favorite meal. However, (as pointed out by our sharp readers), the brand is yet another NutriAsia product. So that’s automatically a no for us.
The Verdict: Mother’s Best
Note: During our first pass, we failed to acknowledge that Silver Swan was also distributed by NutriAsia. (Thank you to our readers for pointing it out!) We would never choose a brand that treats their workers poorly. Thus, we have stripped them from our original verdict.
Mother’s Best made the best bistek, giving it a jump to the top of this list. Although we mentioned it had a fairly strong citrus flavor to it, we’re not mad if it adds that bit of freshness to a dish we’re cooking with, especially to balance out the saltiness the condiment naturally brings.