Difference between types of Thai black soy sauces (Healthy Boy brand)


I've noticed that a lot of Thai dishes call for thick black soy sauce, but they rarely specify the type. Occasionally, a recipe will specify a certain brand, and sometimes they'll note if you should use the "sweet" (pad see ew, pad kee mao, etc.) or "regular" (pad ka prao, etc.).

When looking, I'll usually stick with Healthy Boy, since that seems to be the standard (and the most widely available in the US). When I get to the local Asian market, though, I'm confronted with about 5 or 6 types of Healthy Boy soy sauce, each of which says "Black Soy Sauce."

Within those, I've been able to narrow it down to three major types so far:

  • Black Soy Sauce – Thick, salty, sweet, strong flavor
  • Sweet Black Soy Sauce – Thick, somewhat salty, very sweet, strong flavor. Not always labeled "sweet"
  • Light/Thin Black Soy – Thinner consistency (similar to regular soy sauce). I have never tried this.

While it's easy to tell the light from the others (just flip over the bottle), telling the difference between the sweet and regular is not always as easy. Thankfully, Healthy Boy color-codes the bottles. So far, I have seen:

  • Light Orange (regular?)
  • Dark Orange ("stir fry seasoning with soy sauce?")
  • Brown/brown-orange
  • Green (says Black Soy Sauce B, I think. High sugar content, mostly additive)
  • Red (sometimes says "sweet")
  • White (sometimes says "sweet")
  • Yellow – thin/light
  • Yellow – thick

Each of those typically have varying sugar/salt contents, and have anywhere from 3 to 10 ingredients. Some are also labeled "Natural Ferment" (sub-questions: What does this mean? Does it matter?)

Just going by the bottle color, is there an easy way to tell the difference between all of these? Also, are certain colors more suited to certain dishes?

(I've also seen a couple Bronze and White that are mushroom and oytser flavored respectively, but this isn't about those ones.)

Best Answer

Since regular Thai soy sauce is light in color (to reportedly match the color of fish sauce when it's first marketed there), all types of dark soy sauce are thick. (In Thai, thin soy sauce is called white soy sauce ซีอิ้วขาว and thick soy sauce is called black soy sauce ซีอิ้วดำ.)

According to the company's product page, there are six dark soy sauce products by Dek Somboon or Healthy Boy, the most popular brand in Thailand. There are two types: salty and sweet, in different colors depending on quality and price:

  • Salty: (from the most expensive and best quality) Brown, Yellow, Orange
  • Sweet: Green

The red and white labels are also sweet but not common in everyday cooking; they are light and mostly used for some specific sauces.

I don't even buy the sweet one because it's rarely used (except as dipping sauce). I would not stir-fry with the sweet sauce either. Pad see-ew and pad kee mao should use the salty kind or even light soy sauce. And you can always add sugar if you want.