Many of the dishes we featured, as well as other Chinese and Asian cuisines, call for oyster sauce. We also put it in our list of the Top 10 Ingredients for a Chinese Kitchen. Nonetheless, what if you don’t eat meat, are allergic to shellfish, or are a vegetarian? Vegatarian oyster sauce is the answer!
WHAT IS VEGETARIAN OYSTER SAUCE?
The standard oyster sauce (háo yóu) is flavored with oyster extracts and other spices. There are no oysters in vegetarian oyster sauce. It has the same color and consistency as an ordinary oyster sauce but is made with mushrooms instead of oysters.
Look at the table below to compare the vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. On the left is the vegetarian option, while on the right is the standard option. They look identical, but the vegetarian option is somewhat more watery.
WHAT IS ITS PURPOSE?
The umami in the oyster sauce helps bring out the full flavor of other foods. Meat marinades, stir-fry sauces, and braises all benefit from their incorporation.
Fortunately, the flavor of mushrooms is robust and meaty. They would work wonderfully in a vegan or vegetarian take on oyster sauce.
Put it to use in place of oyster sauce in any of our dishes that calls for it, including our Ultimate Braised Tofu or Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce.
PURCHASING AND STORING
As of this writing, only a small number of brands offer vegetarian oyster sauce.
The “Vegetarian Oyster Flavored Sauce” is a product of Oriental Mascot. While the name may imply oysters, it really contains mushroom extracts rather than the real thing. This brand looks to be gluten-free and does not contain any soy sauce. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein is included, and this ingredient may be produced from wheat, therefore, anyone with a wheat allergy should read the label carefully before purchasing.
The “Vegetarian Stir-fry Sauce” by Lee Kum Kee is very similar.
Not suitable for those with wheat sensitivities, as this product contains wheat. Just so you know, Lee Kum Kee’s Panda Brand offers a gluten-free oyster sauce, but it’s not vegetarian.
Wan Ja Shan is the alternate name brand that you could come across.
The sauce is mostly comprised of and flavored with ground shiitake mushrooms and soybeans. However, it is not gluten-free because it contains wheat.
If kept in the fridge, these will last for up to a year. Just make sure the bottle doesn’t get mixed up with anything else.
If you can’t find Vegetarian Oyster Sauce at your local Asian market, try looking for it online.