Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Oyster Sauce

We wanted to buy oyster sauce to make Chicken with Pineapple. The brands in the stores weren't very good, though. So I'll be substituting soy sauce in the current version.

I went online to look up ingredients in oyster sauce and found that almost all the offerings are bad. This page discusses the pros and cons of various brands. Here is where I found the origin of oyster sauce and one good brand, Organic Chemistry Seasoning Additive-Free Oyster Sauce.


It turns out, the original oyster sauce was a cooking accident, literally cooking down a lot of oysters that formed a sauce. But people wanted a way to make it faster and cheaper, so they started adding all kinds of other things. This one is just sugar, oyster, salt, vinegar, dextri. That's not bad for a condiment.

Thing is, when you switch from cooking down a main ingredient to watering it down and adding thickeners, that weakens the taste. Also most of the things added to make it taste better are bad for you. Chinese food has a reputation for being unhealthy because it uses things like MSG, artificial colors and flavors, and way too much salt -- plus a lot of things are fried. When you look at the flavorings such as soy sauce or mirin, they have a lot of trashy ingredients, which is very disappointing.

This is also very misleading. You start with a pile of fresh healthy ingredients, but if you drown it in junk, you get junk food ... that still looks like vegetables. >_< I don't want to spend time prepping produce and standing over a stove just to wind up with junk food. While I have enjoyed exploring the wok, it has probably made me less inclined to eat at Chinese restaurants in the future. Sure it tastes great, but so does a funnel cake. That's fine once or twice a year, but not much more often.

It's not like Chinese food lacks good ingredients. Sesame oil is rich, roasty, nutty goodness that needs only a small amount to do its trick. I'm deeply enamored of sauteing fresh ginger and garlic together. We have the rice vinegar, which I haven't tried yet, but I like most vinegars and it's typically a healthy ingredient.

So if you're wokking along with me, think about your goals. Do you want to make healthy, delicious food in a tool that works great with fresh produce and plain meat? Then you'll need to keep a sharp eye on recipes and ingredients. Do you want to make something at home that tastes exactly like it came from a Chinese restaurant? Then you'll probably wind up cooking with some questionable ingredients. Choose mindfully. Play with your food! That's how we learn.

When I get to experimenting on my own, without a recipe, I will probably lean toward the fresh ingredients and use the condiments sparingly. There's a big difference between Americanized Chinese food in restaurants vs. food cooked at home. So I'll be drawing more inspiration from traditional sources.
Tags: ethnic studies, food
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