Q. Where can I find
vegetarian oyster sauce? Any recommended brands? Thanks!
those of you who are vegetarian Asian
food lovers will immediately understand Beverly’s question, and, I
think, be intrigued with the answers, I know some of you are saying
“Vegetarian what?” But bear with me (and Beverly) here for a bit.
off, let’s look at what conventional, i.e., non-vegetarian, oyster sauce
is: a basic Chinese cooking and seasoning sauce --- like hoi sin
sauce, or fermented black bean sauce. It’s used for dipping, marinating,
stir-frying and seasoning various Asian dishes, and it contains “oyster
extractives” (I personally don't want to think too much about what
exactly these are or how they are "extracted").
|Oyster Sauce is highly
flavored: savory-with-a-touch-of-sweet (in this sense it is like
Pickapeppa. It is
deep brown in
color, smooth, rich, and thick, though thinner in consistency than a
paste. It does not taste at
all fishy (very differently from the
ubiquitous and extremely fishy Thai fish sauce, nam pla). Oyster
Sauce is used as an ingredient in many now-classic Chinese recipes,
especially Cantonese, but was invented relatively recently, in the late
19th century, by chef-entrepreneur Lee Kam Sheung. He later founded the
food-manufacturing company Lee Kum Kee, which is still around and
Vegans and lacto-ovo vegetarians
choose not to eat foods containing fish. But if they happen to be, as
well, serious lovers of good food, they, like their non-vegetarian
counterparts, are always on the look-out for good ingredients and new
flavors. As a vegetarian and serious food-lover, this sometimes requires
not exactly meat or fish substitutes, but meat or fish
parallel universes. While vegetarian oyster sauce is not in the
same category as, say, soy milk (in terms of a daily-use parallel
vegetarian universe), those v’s who are exploring Asian food will be
thrilled to have it in their repertoire. In addition, any Asian food fan
with a shellfish allergy --- which conventional oyster sauce will set
off big time --- will be glad to know about this, too.
|Do a bit
of label-reading at your local Asian food store and you'll see that most
oyster sauces rely on shiitake mushrooms in lieu of oyster.
This makes sense from a food
chemistry standpoint: both oysters and
shiitake mushrooms contain an intense flavor-enhancing compound, the
natural version of MSG. This is one reason why a visit to your Asian
market is helpful: you’ll want to do some label-reading. Cheaper brands
often stint on the real thing by loading up MSG. You want an MSG-free
oyster sauces, vegetarian or otherwise, must be refrigerated once
they’ve been opened. While most brands are bottled, some come in a can.
Canned varieties will last longer and retain better flavor if
transferred into a clean jar for storage, and then refrigerated.
Asian market? Here are connections to several online sources.
vegan online grocery), and
down on page... This is the company founded by Lee Kam Sheung, Mr.
Oyster Sauce himself; although they sell only in food-service sizes,
it’s an interesting site).
tried these sauces side by side, so I can't vouch for or rate them
personally. If any of you PV site readers do so and taste
comparatively, I and other site readers would be intrigued to know your
results, and I’ll post them here.