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For those who love cooking Asian meals, oyster sauce might be already in your kitchen. However have you learnt if the one you’ve got is a “good one”?  And is the costly oyster sauce to procure (or did not purchase) definitely worth the splurge?

This submit will focus on all the things you must learn about oyster sauce, together with what it’s, find out how to use it, and which model is the perfect after tasting them straight up and in a stir fry! To see the oyster sauce style take a look at in motion, full with my response and full evaluation, you’ll want to watch the video!

The 4 manufacturers of oyster sauce for our style take a look at.

What’s oyster sauce and what does it style like?

Oyster sauce is a predominantly salty seasoning that’s mostly utilized in stir fries, however can be utilized in stews, soups, marinades, and even straight up as a drizzle over steamed greens. Thick, wealthy, salty, umami and barely candy are the traits of oyster sauce, and it received’t essentially make you go, “wow, oysters!” 

In Thai delicacies, it’s a member of what I name “the trinity of Thai sauces.” Together with soy sauce and fish sauce, it’s a staple in each Thai kitchen, and many individuals use it each day.

The Origin Story

Oyster sauce is of Chinese language origin, however is now utilized in many Southeast Asian international locations the place their cuisines have been influenced by China. Lee Kum Sheung, the founding father of the favored oyster sauce model Lee Kum Kee, is alleged to have unintentionally invented oyster sauce in 1888. 

The story goes that Lee Kum Sheung forgot a few simmering pot of oyster soup, and when he got here again to it, it had lowered right into a thick, wealthy, brown liquid. He found that this liquid was flavourful and engaging, and that was the start of oyster sauce. A observe: this story is instructed by Lee Kum Kee themselves on this video.

How is oyster sauce made?

For those who needed to guess how oyster sauce was made, you may need fairly thought that there are pureed oysters in it, which is why it’s thick. Nope.

Otherwise you may need thought that if soy sauce is constructed from fermented soy beans, fish sauce from fermented fish, and shrimp paste from fermented shrimp, then oyster sauce should be constructed from fermented oysters! Additionally no.

Surprisingly there are not any precise oysters in oyster sauce in any respect, however there are “oyster extracts.” Oyster extract is principally oyster cooking liquid, as per the origin story. Shucked oysters are boiled in massive vats, then the oysters are eliminated, and the remaining briny, flavourful liquid is the bottom of oyster sauce. 

Oyster sauce has a thick consistency due to added starch. Thickness varies from model to model.

The oyster extract could get additional lowered, then starch is normally added to thicken, and different seasonings are added comparable to salt, sugar, soy sauce, MSG and colouring. Manufacturers range considerably in what seasonings they select so as to add, and in my video style take a look at I used to be so stunned at how totally different they style; particularly when evaluating the Thai and Chinese language variations! 

Oyster Sauce Style Take a look at: Which model is greatest, and does it actually make a distinction?

I purchased 4 manufacturers of oyster sauce that I can discover right here in Vancouver and pitted them towards one another. So right here they’re – and watch the video beneath to learn how they carry out when tasted straight up, and whether or not the distinction is admittedly that apparent as soon as utilized in a stir fry!

  • Lee Kum Kee Premium – Or what I name the “Boat Girl” model as per the label. That is the premium and authentic oyster sauce from LKK, and in Vancouver a bottle prices about $8. 
  • Panda Model (by LKK) – Probably the most broadly out there oyster sauce, and doubtless the one your native Thai and Chinese language eating places use. That is the newer, cheaper line of oyster sauce by LKK. A bottle prices about $4 in Vancouver.
  • Maekrua – The most well-liked Thai model of oyster sauce. Whenever you say “oyster sauce,” the lady on the label is the picture that involves thoughts for many Thai folks (no less than ones from my era and older!) It prices barely greater than Panda, however not as a lot as Boat Girl. Maekrua is more durable to search out round right here, and is normally out there solely in shops that carry quite a lot of Southeast Asian merchandise.
  • Wholesome Boy – Wholesome Boy is most well-known for his or her soy sauces, and certainly they make my favorite soy sauces, however they’ve began producing all kinds of sauces in recent times. Like Maekrua, it’s not as broadly out there right here as LKK manufacturers. It is the least costly of all 4.
  • Want I had tried: Megachef. A brand new child on the block from Thailand who has rapidly gained reputation, sadly it isn’t out there in Vancouver. I’ve heard constructive evaluations about their oyster sauce (and their fish sauce is nice), and primarily based on the label/elements it seems to be very promising.

VIDEO: Oyster Sauce 101 + Style Take a look at!

This video exhibits you my stay aspect by aspect style take a look at, each straight up and in addition in a Chinese language broccoli stir fry. Notice that despite the fact that I’ve used these earlier than (besides Wholesome Boy) that is the primary time I am tasting them aspect by aspect, so my response is actual!

In case you don’t have time to look at the video fairly but, right here’s a fast recap of my rating: 

  • #1 Lee Kum Kee Premium – Boat Girl
  • #2 TIED – Maekrua and Panda
  • #3 Wholesome Boy

How to decide on the perfect one primarily based on the label

So now that you understand how these 4 sauces examine, however you’re on the retailer, and there are manufacturers I didn’t cowl right here…what do you do? Effectively, as I shared in the video, fortunately we will nonetheless make an informed selection primarily based on a number of components.

  1. Worth is an efficient indicator of high quality. Given that you’re on the identical retailer, the costlier the model, the extra oyster extract might be within the sauce, and the upper high quality it probably is. Remember that not like fish sauce, bottle dimension varies considerably so that you would possibly have to do some math.
  1. Protein content material on the diet label can be a superb common guideline of how a lot oyster extract is within the bottle. However remember the fact that the serving dimension on the dietary info can range between manufacturers, so once more, be ready for some math.
Left: LKK Boat Girl, winner of our style take a look at, accommodates essentially the most quantity of protein by quantity by a protracted shot. Proper: Wholesome Boy, the loser of the style take a look at, has zero protein.

What concerning the ingredient record?

The ingredient record is at all times good to take a look at, and if issues like MSG and added color hassle you, then you definately undoubtedly wish to test it out. BUT…beforehand I maintained that if oyster extract is listed as the primary ingredient, then there should be extra of it, and subsequently it should style higher than a model that has it additional down the record. Is sensible, proper?

Effectively, this proved to be not so straight ahead. This is why:

  • LKK Boat Girl lists oyster extract in place #1
  • Panda lists oyster extract in place #4
  • Maekrua lists oyster extract in place #1
  • Wholesome Boy lists “oysters” in place #2

This does not match our style take a look at or the protein content material in any approach, EXCEPT the 2 LKK manufacturers differ as anticipated. I am sure that it is because the way in which LKK defines “oyster extract” is identical between their 2 product traces, however different manufacturers outline it in another way. How concentrated and diluted is that this oyster extract? We do not know. And what does “oysters” even imply within the case of Wholesome Boy? We additionally do not know. To not point out the cooking course of and the standard of oysters…there are simply too many unknowns.

So I apologize to everybody up to now whom I suggested going fully by the ingredient record!

Premium LKK oyster sauce (high) accommodates extra oyster extract than the fundamental LKK (backside). However this conclusion can’t at all times be drawn throughout totally different manufacturers.

Is oyster sauce gluten free?

More often than not, no. Wheat flour is typically added as a thickener as is the case with each LKK manufacturers, and a few manufacturers, comparable to Maekrua, comprise soy sauce which is not gluten free. However Panda model does have a gluten free oyster sauce that I’ve seen in some shops, and Megachef (the Thai model I could not discover) is gluten free.

Can I exploit Chinese language oyster sauce in Thai meals?

Sure. Whereas the flavours of Thai and Chinese language oyster sauces are clearly totally different in a style take a look at, as soon as it’s in a dish it’s shut sufficient that it’s not going to make the dish style inauthentic. If it makes you’re feeling higher, your native Thai restaurant is more than likely utilizing Panda.

I normally purchase LKK Boat Girl due to ones which can be simply accessible to me, it’s the perfect. However every time I make a visit to the Thai retailer, I’ll seize a bottle of Maekrua as a result of it’s what I grew up with, and the bottle actually has a nostalgic impact on me. 

Nonetheless, after this style take a look at, I used to be stunned how a lot better Boat Girl is than Maekrua…so…this adjustments issues. I’ll probably purchase Maekrua a lot much less now – as unhappy as that’s!

However if in case you have a reminiscence of a dish that you just had in Thailand and also you need it to style precisely like what you keep in mind, then utilizing Maekrua might be going to get you there. 

How do you prepare dinner with oyster sauce?

I name oyster sauce “the queen of stir fry sauces”. Meat and veggie stir fries, fried rice, fried noodles…all of those are nice locations to make use of oyster sauce – and although you can use it as the one sauce in stir fries, I like to make use of it together with soy sauce and fish sauce for a extra complicated flavour.

You’ll be able to add it to soups and stews, however due to its richness we normally use it in one thing slightly richer such because the Thai beef stew, 5 spice eggs and pork stomach soup, or the well-known boat noodles.

It’s additionally excellent in meat marinades. A bit salty, slightly candy, and with a number of umami, it’s a serious participant in the one steak marinade you want!

Lastly, you can use it straight up or barely diluted as a drizzle over steamed veggies (normally Chinese language broccoli), however I extremely advocate utilizing the premium LKK oyster sauce for this. The opposite manufacturers I discover too salty. Living proof, in Thailand the place Maekrua is our predominant oyster sauce, we don’t normally use it straight up.

Retailer

As soon as opened, oyster sauce ought to be saved within the fridge as it’ll get moldy at room temperature. Nonetheless, when you go to Thailand, you’ll see most individuals maintain their oyster sauce at room temperature regardless of it saying “refrigerate after opening” on the label. 

It’s because we use it nearly each day and may undergo a bottle in a short time; and with many Thai kitchens being outdoors, it’s simply extra handy to maintain all our sauces outdoors as nicely.

Substitutes for Oyster Sauce

Two good vegetarian substitutes for oyster sauce.

In case you are vegan/vegetarian or allergic to shellfish, excellent news! There are first rate substitutes in the marketplace, comparable to one I used for this vegan claypot glass noodle recipe.

Whilst you could not discover bottles labeled “vegetarian oyster sauce” or “vegan oyster sauce,” you would possibly discover ones that are supposed to be vegan substitutes for oyster sauce. The image above exhibits two good manufacturers labeled “vegetarian stir fry sauce” and “vegetarian mushroom sauce“.

So if it is a vegetarian sauce that seems to be like oyster sauce, it is most likely meant to be a substitute. Almost definitely, shiitake mushrooms are the supply of the umami rather than the oysters.

Listed below are some tasty recipes that use oyster sauce!

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