is a viscous dark brown sauce commonly used in Chinese and
Filipino cuisine. Oyster sauce is prepared from oysters,
brine, umami flavor enhancers such as MSG, and typically
contain chemical preservatives to increase its shelf life.
Oyster sauce was
invented in 1888 by Mr. Lee Kam Sheung, in Nam Shui
Village in Guangdong Province, China. His company,
Lee Kum Kee, continues to produce oyster sauce, to this
day, along with a wide variety of Asian condiments.
"true" oyster sauce of good quality should be
made by condensing oyster extracts, which is made by
cooking oysters in water, where the aqueous mixture is
then cooked until a desired viscosity has been reached. No
other additives, not even salt,
should be added to the sauce since the oysters should
provide all the savory flavor. The sauce should be
aromatic with great umami flavor. Unfortunately this
method is expensive and only a handful of manufacturers
are willing to use it.
sauces are actually diluted solutions thicken with starch,
chemical preservatives and caramel, with little or no
oyster extracts. Typical oyster sauce also has large
amounts of monosodium glutamate added, but in recent years
MSG-free varieties can also be found. The taste of MSG and
non-MSG variants may not be easily distinguishable.
sauce prepared from mushrooms
is also popular and generally cheaper, but generally
contain more taste enhancers.
Oyster sauce is
capable of enhancing the flavor of many savory foods. It
is often used as a topping for steamed vegetables such as
kailan and in stir-fries.