The great soy sauce ordeal

Is a really good product worth putting up with really lousy customer service?

John I. Carney
5 min readMar 16, 2022

For lunch today, I ordered Mongolian beef from one of our local Chinese restaurants. The meal was fine, but my pet peeve about most Chinese restaurants are those little soy sauce packets. The packets given out with to-go orders taste little better than salt water. Often, the same restaurants that give you the nasty, sub-par soy sauce with to-go orders have the good stuff on the table for dine-in orders. I assume there’s some sort of cost issue with the single-serving packets of good quality soy sauce.

I admit it — I can be a soy sauce snob. I usually buy Kikkoman, because it’s naturally brewed. You want a soy sauce that lists someting like “water, soybeans, wheat, salt” as the ingredients. If you see “hydrolyzed soy protein” or “vegetable protein,” it’s chemically processed instead of naturally brewed. Sometimes, the store brand of soy sauce will have both regular and naturally-brewed options, and if that’s the case I don’t mind buying a store brand as long as it’s naturally brewed.

Back in 2020, I learned about CinSoy, a small-batch soy sauce made in Cincinnati. I ordered a couple of bottles of CinSoy sauce and really liked it — it had a discernibly-better flavor than the Kikkoman. I used it sparingly, however; I continued to use the supermarket stuff for things like jerky and other marinades, and only used the CinSoy as a condiment. So it lasted me quite a while.

Last year, I had seen several cooking features related to the condiment chili crisp, which is made from fried chili peppers infused in oil. I wanted to try some, and somehow I noticed that the folks at CinSoy now had a chili crisp. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to order some chili crisp and some of their delicious soy sauce at the same time. I also ordered a bag of soy sauce salt, a sort of powdered soy sauce which sounded interesting.

I placed that original order on December 16, for four items: two bottles of soy sauce, one jar of chili crisp, and one bag of soy sauce salt.

The next day, I got an e-mail shipping notice. If you clicked on the USPS tracking number, it gave you the standard message acknowledging that the tracking number had been…

John I. Carney

Author of “Dislike: Faith and Dialogue in the Age of Social Media,” available at