Oyster sauce stands alone! With the shake of a bottle, I can bless almost any pile of meat and vegetables with layers of complex, salty-sweet umami flavor. What would Phat Sii Krong Neua or that chicken and corn pan be without a dollop of goodies? And just thinking about going back to spaghetti (yes, spaghetti!) With no oyster sauce all get me grumpy face emoji.
But what is this magical brown sauce? Is it actually out, well, oysters? And how can you use it at home?
For starters, it is believed that oyster sauce was invented completely by accident. In 1888, the Chinese takeaway operator Lee Kum Sheung simmered a pot of oyster soup for so long that it boiled down into a thick brown paste. Sheung took a cheeky taste in not wanting to waste a full pot of food and found that his caramelized brew was rich, super hearty, and utterly delicious. So he called it “oyster sauce” and began serving it to his customers as a condiment before packing it up and selling it under the now iconic Lee Kum Kee Asian sauce empire.
Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Sauce
Good news: Oyster sauce is everywhere these days. So grab a bottle, kiss it on the lid, and use it to make any dish a better version of itself. Go wild! Experiment! Like the sauce itself, the best things happen when you least expect them.
Is that grocery store stuff made from oysters?
This is one of the increasingly rare occurrences of a food like advertised drum roll. Even 133 years after Sheung’s discovery, Lee Kum Kee (like Kikkoman) still makes their sauces with so-called “oyster extracts” (obtained from oysters, water and salt) together with sugar, salt, corn starch, flour, colorings and my favorite ingredient monosodium glutamate (MSG ) – this is the same spice that makes Cool Ranch Doritos so difficult to stop eating. Also known as oyster-flavored sauce, be sure to check the label before buying – those worth the brine contain extracts from real shellfish.
Along with a touch of flavor, oyster sauce gives any dish a dark caramel color, which, according to assistant food editor Jessie YuChen, is referred to as “the sauce color” in Mandarin. It’s a shade you’ll notice in many Chinese dishes like fried broccoli, Cantonese beef chow fun, and lo mein. Whether the color comes from soy, oyster, or any other brown sauce like hoisin, it’s a sure sign that a dish is going to be delicious. According to YuChen, the equation is simple: “brown = sauce = taste”.
How does oyster sauce taste?
Unlike fish sauce, which is downright fishy, you lick a dollop of oyster sauce off your finger and you won’t think, “Wow, oysters!” But it is “absolutely full of flavor,” according to test kitchen director Chris Morocco. It is sweet. And salty. But the flavors go deeper. The sweetness is not monotonous or intrusive; it is dark and developed, like caramel. The saltiness is less like table salt and more like sea water (“in a good way,” says YuChen). And as with anchovies, the oyster flavor gives the sauce plenty of umami and rich flavor. “It’s like four sauces in one,” says Senior Food Editor Christina Chaey.
Oyster sauce undoubtedly has a punch, but for Morocco it’s perfectly balanced, hitting every note evenly. “It gives tons of flavor [to sauces, stir-fries, and dressings]without overwhelming the other ingredients, ”he says.
How do you cook with oyster sauce?
As a versatile spice for Asian cuisine and beyond, oyster sauce can stand alone or blend in with the crowd. However you use it, a little goes a long way. “I just finish quick-cooked meat and / or vegetables with a dollop of oyster sauce and call it a day,” says Chaey. But it’s also pretty much guaranteed to be delicious in a marinade for steaks or any other meat. drizzled on muted green; spooned into meaty stews or soups; or added to your dumpling fillings and stir-fries.
More of a recipe type? Here are some of our favorites with oyster sauce:
Which brands of oyster sauce are the best?
Of course, not all oyster sauces are created equal! Across the board, our food editors prefer Lee Kum Kees premium oyster sauce for that hearty OG flavor. It’s “the security blanket of my spice cabinet,” says Chaey. (According to the Lee Kum Kee website, if you want a milder flavor, try the Panda Brand Oyster Sauce.) YuChen also recommends Kikkoman’s Oyster Flavored Sauce or Wan Ja Shan’s mushroom-based vegetarian reef for the shellfish averse.
Lee Kum Kee Panda Brand Oyster Sauce
Kikkoman sauce with oyster flavor
Wan Ja Shan Vegetarian Mushroom Oyster Sauce
What can you use instead of oyster sauce?
While there’s nothing quite like oyster sauce, when your local grocery store is fresh from the goodies and you’re in a bind, choose your own adventure:
- Sub into the vegan “brown sauce” in this Bok Choy with brown sauce and crispy garlic recipe from Fat Choy chef and owner Justin Lee.
- Opt for the Indonesian sweet soy sauce Kecap Manis, which has the same starchy texture and a similar sweet and salty taste, just without the shellfish-like notes.
- Use a dark (matured) soy sauce or something like Healthy Boy Brand Mushroom Soy Sauce, which has similar transformative power – albeit a different flavor.
Source * www.bonappetit.com – * Source link