Oyster sauce is a staple in Asian cuisine. Its sweet and salty fusion is important in expanding and deepening the flavor profiles of dishes while its viscous texture makes it easy to use in a variety of cooking methods.
Oyster sauce is a combination of juices extracted from cooked oysters, salt, and sugar. Its flavor is rich in umami which adds a savory tanginess to the sweet and salty mixture.
What Does Oyster Sauce Smell Like?
Oyster sauce has a rich, meaty smell with slight hints of fresh fish. Its aroma is lightly sweet like caramel with a twist of smokey barbeque.
If your oyster sauce smells putrid or moldy or has a strong scent of ammonia, toss it out. These are all signs that oyster sauce is going bad and when oyster sauce goes bad it smells similar to rotting fish. Remember to refrigerate your oyster sauce to extend its shelf life.
What Is the Texture of Oyster Sauce
Oyster sauce should be thick and viscous, similar to the texture of warm caramel. Many people assume oyster sauce is thin and watery like fish sauce, but this is a good indicator that your oyster sauce has been diluted.
When cooking with oyster sauce, it will begin to evaporate and become very thick. This makes it great for braising meat for a nice glaze with a slight crunch, but be careful to not let it burn.
What Is Oyster Sauce Used In
Oyster sauce is most commonly used in Asian-style stir-fries. It’s a key ingredient in Spicy Sichuan Noodles, Jajangmyeon, Kung Pao Shrimp, and Beef-Stir Fry with Bell Peppers.
The reason oyster sauce can be used in so many dishes is due to its complex flavor. The intense, savory umami of the sauce means that you can use less salt in a dish and keep it healthy. The slight bit of caramel-like sweetness means you can also use less sugar as well and simultaneously deepen the flavor.
Oyster sauce is a gift in the culinary world that must be used respectfully. It can add multiple layers of complexity to a dish with its savory, sweet, and umami flavor. The thick consistency of oyster sauce makes it perfect for stir-fries and braising meat to a light crisp.
However, with great power comes great responsibility. The fact that oyster sauce has so many flavor profiles makes it very easy to overpower a dish. If your dish already has a high salt content but not much in the way of sweetener, oyster sauce could sweeten the dish to perfection just as much as it could destroy it with too much saltiness.