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Oyster Sauce

Oyster Sauce
Oyster Sauce

Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce is a thick, dark brown sauce that is made from oyster extract, sugar, salt, and water. It is a popular condiment in Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Malay, and Khmer cuisine. Oyster sauce has a strong, umami flavor that is similar to fish sauce, but it is not as salty. It is also slightly sweet and has a hint of caramel flavor.

Like many great foods and inventions, oyster sauce was an accident. In 1888, a Cantonese food vendor left a pot of slow-cooked oyster soup on too long and by the time he came back to it, it had turned into a thick, delicious brown sauce. He started selling the sauce as "Oyster Sauce" and it quickly became popular with his customers.

When is Oyster Sauce in season?


How to store Oyster Sauce?

When buying oyster sauce, look for reputable brands and avoid buying the generic brand version. Choose varieties with oyster extract as the main ingredient, followed by water, salt, and sugar. Avoid options with artificial flavors, preservatives, or excessive soy sauce.

Oyster sauce is a shelf-stable condiment, however, it is best to keep it tightly sealed in an airtight container in a dark and cool place. Once opened, you can store it in the refrigerator but the cold might affect its texture.

What to make with leftover Oyster Sauce?

Oyster sauce is a great choice for marinades. Next time you’re marinating some meat or seafood, try adding a bit of oyster sauce to your mixture to get that wonderful umami flavor to the dish.

Another way to use oyster sauce is to make a marinade for tofu. The sauce not only adds the umami flavor to tofu but also firms it up.

How about adding a splash of the sauce to your next Bloody Mary cocktail or popcorn?

Food Science

Oyster sauce is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide variety of dishes. However, it is also very high in sodium so it should be consumed in moderation.

Legend has it that oyster sauce was born in 1888, courtesy of a humble Cantonese cook named Lee Kum Sheung. While simmering a pot of oysters, he forgot about it, leaving it to cook for hours until it reduced to a thick, flavorful gravy. Initially dismayed, he tasted it and discovered a delicious new condiment - oyster sauce was born!

Since oyster sauce can be made using cooked oysters, be careful where the sauce is made since oysters are good at filtering out metals from the water and therefore the sauce could contain heavy metals.

Cooking tips for Oyster Sauce

Oyster sauce doesn’t take well to cooking. Stew for too long, and it loses its umami. Turn the temperature too high, and it turns bitter. To avoid this, add it at the end of cooking - just mind the salt. Oyster sauce has quite high amounts of sodium.

Counteract the saltiness of the sauce with a touch of sweetness. Add a drizzle of honey, brown sugar, or even pineapple juice for a balanced flavor profile.

What are the health benefits of Oyster Sauce?

Oyster sauce doesn't offer significant health benefits. While it does contain trace amounts of certain nutrients, they are not present in high enough quantities to make a notable impact on your overall health.

The major downside of oyster sauce is its high sodium content. A tablespoon can contain roughly 500-800 mg of sodium, which already represents a significant portion of the recommended daily limit.

When buying oyster sauce opt for reduced-sodium options when possible and balance its use with other, healthier seasonings.

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