July 2021: Introducing Zhongba DARK Soy Sauce

August 14, 2021

July 2021: Introducing Zhongba DARK Soy Sauce

The Joy of Dark Soy

Greetings, Friends of The Mala Market!

Many of you know the wonders of Chinese dark soy sauce–its unparalleled coloring and flavoring properties–and have asked us to carry it, so we are excited to finally present the tastiest dark soy sauce in the land

Truth be told, due to COVID we weren't even able to sample this soy sauce before we imported a large quantity of it, but because it is a Zhongba product we decided to take the risk. And when it arrived, we were not disappointed! 

If you've had Zhongba's naturally brewed light soy sauce–either the 360 version for everyday use or the super special handcrafted version–then you already love it and know that it redefines Chinese soy sauce. The historic Sichuan company's dark soy sauce similarly lives up to the Zhongba name. 

Unlike supermarket brands of dark soy sauce, which taste mainly of sugary molasses and little of soy, Zhongba Dark Soy Sauce tastes like umami-rich soy sauce that's been sweetened. And it still delivers that mahogany-red tint that makes food so appetizing, whether it's a marinated pork shoulder steak headed for the grill, as seen above, or a pork belly headed for the wok. If it can make pre-cooked meat look that enticing, just imagine how appealing the cooked versions are. 

While China most often uses dark soy sauce in "red-braised" dishes (see below), we also use it to marinate almost every protein we grill or roast.

Here's our go-to quickie marinade:

  • A big slug of Zhongba Dark Soy Sauce
  • An equal slug of Zhongba 360 Light Soy Sauce
  • A teaspoon or so of Asian sesame oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced or pressed
  • (Add a touch of black vinegar or fresh orange juice only if you're feeling ambitious.)
Pour ingredients directly into a gallon-size freezer bag, combine well and add 1 pound of pork, beef or chicken. The result will dazzle both the eye and the mouth. 

What will you do with Zhongba Dark Soy Sauce? Let us know!

🌶Taylor & Fongchong 🌶

P.S. The Washington Post recently published a Guide to Soy Sauce, recommending Zhongba in the section titled "You get what you pay for." 

"The same pervasive thinking that prompts people to expect and demand that their Chinese takeout be cheap carries over to soy sauce, where it can be hard to overcome the expectation that you can get a huge bottle for a few bucks...

"As with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt, there are special items you invest in when you really want soy sauce to shine, especially in small amounts. [Grace] Young raves about Zhongba, made by the same family in China since 1828..."


Zhongba Dark Soy Sauce (Naturally Brewed)
Zhongba Dark Soy Sauce (Naturally Brewed)

Chinese soy sauce comes in both light and dark versions. Light soy sauce is regular, salty soy sauce, while dark has added sugar. Light does not refer to calories, sodium content or flavor. Zhongba Dark Soy Sauce is naturally brewed 180 days and hits the perfect note of salty-sweet umami. Use in braises, marinades and noodle sauces to boost both flavor and color. 

Hong shao rou

Hong Shao Rou

Dark soy sauce is perhaps most famously used in hong shao rou, or red-cooked pork, the melt-in-your mouth pork belly that's Shanghai's claim to culinary fame. Zhongba Dark is particularly well-suited to this dish, as its spices, mushrooms and long fermentation make it much redder and more flavorful than other soy sauces. 

Yunnan Posubao

From our contributor Michelle Zhao comes this recipe for one of Yunnan province's most unique and beloved bao. Posubao means crumbly bun, and these bao have flaky layered skin that comes from a thin layer of lard in the dough. They can be stuffed with a range of fillings, but the classic is rich, fatty pork and shiitake mushroom. 

While dark soy sauce is used here to color the meat—as it so often is in Chinese cooking—if you use Zhongba you're also giving the meat a true flavor boost. This recipe also calls for Yunnan's famous Tuodong Sweet Soy Sauce, which tastes much more sweet than salty (and may be a good soy sauce alternative for those watching their sodium intake). 

Pork belly slices

Thrice-Cooked Pork

In the top photo above, you see three little pork bellies with burnished-brown skins and you may wonder what scrumptious use they will be put to. This is basically a variation on twice-cooked pork, hui guo rou, which is consistently voted the favorite dish of chefs in Sichuan. While twice-cooked pork is first boiled and then stir-fried, this version, which was inspired by a cook from Guangxi province, adds another intriguing step. The boiled bellies are painted with dark soy sauce and then shallow- or deep-fried until the skin crisps up into a delightful, crunchy coat.

Simply slice and proceed with the usual hui guo rou recipe, which calls for stir-frying the pork belly slices in the ultimate umami sauce of three fermented Sichuan pastes: Pixian doubanjiang, sweet wheat paste, and fermented black soybeans (douchi). Heaven! 
Jujube dessert soup

Jujube Dessert Soup

If you've been eating rich dishes such as those above, dessert may call for a tonic such as this jujube/goji berry/snow fungus soup. Part dessert, part TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), this sweet is not only tasty but also good for what ails you. Let Kathy and Mala Mama explain the benefits to palate and health in this blog post and recipe. You'll need our primo, jumbo jujubes direct from Xinjiang to make it.