Oyster Sauce (Dầu hào)
This deep brown Chinese seasoning is made from oyster extract, sugar, salt, and cornstarch; occasionally soy sauce is added. It has a rich, sweet-savory flavor and is typically added to stir-fried dishes, and is often combined with rice wine, sugar, cornstarch, and other ingredients to make a slightly thickened sauce for vegetables and fish. A vegetarian version (with mushrooms standing in for the oysters) is also available; see vegetarian stir-fry sauce.
Oyster sauce was discovered by accident by Lee Kum Sheung in Guangdong Province 1888. In his tea and oyster soup stall, he accidentally overcooked a batch of oyster broth which transformed into a magical brown sauce with deep flavor. Realizing its potential as a condiment, he started selling it to locals and thus the famed Lee Kum Kee company was born. (If you’re wondering, the word “Kee” is like a brand prefix in Cantonese.)
What is oyster sauce made of?
Oyster sauce is typically made with oysters, water salt, sugar, MSG, modified corn starch, wheat flour, and caramel color.
The vegetarian versions of it are usually made of the same ingredients but instead of oysters, there’s soybeans, brown sugar, and mushroom flavor.
How do you cook with oyster sauce?
A versatile condiment for Asian cooking and beyond, oyster sauce can happily stand alone or blend into the crowd. However you use it, a little goes a long way. “I simply finish off quickly cooked meat and/or veg with a plop of oyster sauce and call it a day,” says Chaey. But it’s also pretty much guaranteed to be delicious whisked into a marinade for steak or any meat; drizzled on steamed greens; spooned into meaty braises or soups; or added to your dumpling fillings and stir-fries.