Oyster sauce is used for a variety of recipes, including as an earthy dressing for noodles, vegetables, and stir-fries, or as a base for other sauces and marinades. Oyster sauce is the predominant flavor in the popular Chinese dish, beef, and broccoli. It is also sometimes drizzled over sushi rolls for added flavor and garnish.
When To Avoid Oyster Sauce
Oyster sauce contains oyster as a primary ingredient and should be avoided if you have a shellfish allergy. Traditionally, oyster sauce is made by slowly simmering oysters in water until the juices caramelize into a thick, brown, sweet and earthy flavored sauce. Because this is a labor-intensive method, many shortcuts have been made to create a similar flavor more quickly and economically. The oyster sauces found today on grocery store shelves are usually made with a base of sugar and salt, thickened with corn starch. Oyster extracts are then used to give flavor to the base. Other ingredients, like soy sauce and MSG, may also be added. The quality of the oyster sauce will greatly affect the final flavor.
As chefs get more creative with their cooking, they are finding new and unusual ways of incorporating oyster sauce. Because it is a simple sauce thickened usually with corn starch, the oyster sauce can be used as a thickener. Be very aware that oyster sauce can be used in places not remotely related to Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai foods. Fish stews and grilled fish with sauces may contain oyster sauce. It can also be used as a thickener with peanut sauce in traditional Chinese entrees. If you are allergic to shellfish, be sure to ask about this when ordering food from a menu.