Friday, 13 February 2009


Oyster sauce was "accidentally invented" by Mr. Lee Kum Sheung in 1888 (in Nam Shui Village in Guangdong Province, China) who is the founder of the LEE KUM KEE company. Mr. Lee was a restaurateur when he discovered the sauce from an over-cooked pot of oyster soup. His company, LEE KUM KEE, continues to produce oyster sauce to this day, along with a wide variety of Asian condiments.

Oyster sauce is a dark brown sauce commonly used in Chinese, Thai and Khmer cuisine. It is especially common in Cantonese cuisine. Oyster sauce is prepared from oysters, brine, umami (savoury) flavour enhancers such as MSG and typically contains preservatives to increase its shelf life.

A "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 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 savory flavour. The LEE KUM KEE Premium Oyster sauce is an example of true oyster sauce.

Many oyster sauces are actually diluted solutions thickened with starch, coloured with caramel coloring (E150), with oyster extracts and synthetic preservatives. In some countries, including the UK, the oyster content in some sauces is lower than its Asian counterparts of the same brand due to laws regulating the import of seafood.


Vegetarian oyster sauce is prepared from mushrooms, often oyster mushrooms. It is popular with vegetarians and non vegetarians as it is generally lower in price. It may contain more taste enhancers if less mushroom extract is used to reduce costs. It is normally sold as Vegetarian oyster sauce, Mushroom sauce or Vegetarian stir fry sauce. LEE KUM KEE makes a nice version of the sauce.

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