Oyster sauce describes a number of sauces made by cooking oysters. The
most common in modern use is a viscous dark brown condiment made from
oyster extracts, sugar, salt and water thickened with corn
starch. Some versions may be darkened with caramel, though
high-quality oyster sauce is naturally dark. It is commonly used in
Cantonese, Thai, Vietnamese and Khmer cuisine.
3 Culinary use
4.1 Vegetarian oyster sauce
4.2 Non-MSG oyster sauce
5 European oyster sauce
7 See also
9 External links
Oyster sauce is an invention by Lee Kum Sheung in Nanshui,
Guangdong Province in
China in 1888. He ran a tea stall that sold
cooked oysters. One day, Lee was cooking oysters as usual, but he lost
track of time and left them to simmer until he smelt a strong aroma.
Lifting the lid of the pot, he was delighted to find the normally
clear oyster soup had turned into a thick, brownish sauce with an
astonishing delicious taste. Soon he started selling his newly
invented seasoning which turned out to be a hit with the locals. He
Lee Kum Kee
Lee Kum Kee to promote oyster sauce and other Chinese sauces
and condiments to all corners of the world.
Traditionally, oyster sauce is made by slowly simmering oysters in
water until the juices caramelise into a thick, brown, intensely
flavourful sauce. Today, many shortcuts have been made to create a
similar flavour more quickly and at reduced cost.
Oyster sauces today
are usually made with a base of sugar and salt and thickened with corn
Oyster extracts or essences are then used to give flavour to
the base sauce. Other ingredients, such as soy sauce and MSG, may also
be added to deepen the flavour and add colour. The quality of the
oyster sauce will greatly affect the flavour.
Oyster sauce is made manually in the traditional method. Some oyster
sauce manufacturers have improved the process to produce oyster sauce
in mass with automation. The oyster extracts are mixed with sugar,
corn starch and the like with the weighing and mixing processes
powered by an automatic electronic system before uniform blending on
the automatic production line. The mixed ingredients are cooked in a
sealed automatic production system at high temperature by a
computerized system. The cooked sauce is transferred to the filing
system through sealed pipelines, and reaches the market shelves only
after multiple rounds of inspection.
Further information: Thai cuisine, Hmong cuisine, Cambodian cuisine,
Cantonese cuisine, Cuisine of Hong Kong, and American Chinese cuisine
Oyster sauce adds a savory flavour to many dishes, making it an ideal
choice for flavouring meat and vegetables. The sauce is a staple for
much Chinese family-style cooking. It is commonly used in noodle
stir-fries, such as chow mein. It is also found in popular
Chinese-American dishes such as beef with stir-fried vegetables.
Oyster sauce can also be used as a topping for some dishes.
Since its early stage of development, oyster sauce has been widely
Cantonese chefs as a traditional umami rich condiment.
Until now, the applications of oyster sauce are no longer restricted
Cantonese cuisine. Be it the well-balanced Shandong cuisine, the
spicy hot Sichuanese cuisine, or the seafood and red stewing-dominated
Jiangsu and Zhejiang cuisine, oyster sauce plays a part in enhancing
the flavours without hampering the authenticity of taste. It brings
out the umami flavour in the best delicacies while adding texture and
flavour to everyday dishes, which makes it a condiment of choice
indispensable for both professional or home kitchens.
Oyster sauces are well known for its magic of “bringing out the
umami taste in flavourful foods” while “adding flavour to bland
ingredients”, serving as versatile condiment ideal for
umami-inducing, flavour enhancement, colour-enriching,
brightness-adding and sauce-retaining for different cuisines.
The popularity of oyster sauce in the international market has lifted
its application in different cuisines apart from Chinese.
Dishes that may use oyster sauce include Crab in oyster sauce,
Kai-lan, Buddha's delight, Hainanese chicken rice, Cashew chicken, Lo
mein, Cha siu baau, Har gow, Kai yat sai, Wonton noodles, and Daikon
"True" oyster sauce of good quality should be made by condensing
oyster extracts, the white broth produced by boiling oysters in water.
This opaque broth, similar to the colour of clam juice found in
supermarkets, is then reduced until a desired viscosity has been
reached and the liquid has caramelized to a brown colour. No other
additives, not even salt, should be added to the sauce, since the
oysters should provide all the savoury flavour. However, this method
is prohibitively expensive.
Many modern oyster sauces are thickened with cornstarch, flavoured
with oyster essence or extract and darkened with caramel.
Vegetarian oyster sauce
Vegetarian oyster sauce prepared from mushrooms, often oyster
mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms, is also popular and generally lower
in price. It may contain more taste enhancers if less mushroom extract
is used to reduce costs.
Non-MSG oyster sauce
Most of the oyster sauces available on the market contain added
monosodium glutamate (MSG). In recent years MSG-free varieties can
also be found. The taste of MSG and non-MSG variants is similar as
oyster sauce naturally contains large amounts of glutamate.
European oyster sauce
In 19th century French and English cooking, "oyster sauce" referred to
a variant of sauce blanche flavoured with oysters, using a base of
milk and melted butter rather than purely reducing the oysters by
cooking. The white sauce version was moistened with cream,
whereas in brown oyster sauce, the cream was replaced with gravy.
Common recipes using the sauce included "Steak and oyster sauce",
documented as early as 1806, and "Cod and oyster
sauce". This sauce was still being eaten in Australia in the
In 2001, the United Kingdom
Food Standards Agency
Food Standards Agency found in tests of
various oyster sauces and soy sauces that 22% of samples contained a
3-MCPD (3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol) at levels
considerably higher than those deemed safe by the European Union.
About two thirds of these samples also contained a second chemical,
called 1,3-DCP (1,3-dichloropropanol), which experts advise should not
be present at any levels in food. Both chemicals have the potential to
cause cancer, and the Agency recommended that the affected products be
withdrawn from shelves and avoided.
The joint Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) said it had
taken emergency action to amend its food standards code to set a limit
3-MCPD in soy sauce of 0.02 milligrams per kilogram, in line with
European Commission standards which came into force in the EU in April
Lee Kum Kee
List of Chinese sauces
List of sauces
Oyster Sauce Ingredient List:1.3% oyster essence
^ a b The Times, 22 January 1981; Cook Accidentally on purpose
^ BBC.co.uk Essence or extract
^ a b BigOven Food Dictionary
^ Moncel, Bethany. "What is
Oyster Sauce?". About.com. Retrieved 15
^ "Essence or extract". Archived from the original on 11 March
^ Mrs Beeton's Household Management, recipe 492 "
Oyster Sauce", p. 224
^ Ude, Louis Eustache. The French Cook, p.293, Publisher Carey, Lea
& Carey, 1829.
Charles Elmé Francatelli
Charles Elmé Francatelli The modern cook T.B. Peterson and
^ The Ipswich Journal; 4 January 1806; Friday's Post
^ The Times, 17 August 1815; Mendicity
^ The Times, 30 March 1831 Police
^ The Times, 22 October 1835 "On Monday afternoon..."
^ "Fashions for August" Liverpool Mercury 9 August 1833
^ "Food.gov.uk press release soysauce".
^ "Chart with five mentions of affected oyster sauces". Archived from
the original on 2009-08-05.
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