I always love visiting my family; they live near several beaches that are covered in oysters and other tasty shellfish. It’s hard for me to get fresh shellfish where I live, so it’s always a treat to collect some at the beach. While gathering oysters from the shoreline I always manage to ‘accidently’ break open around half a dozen to a dozen oysters, so as a result I get to eat them straight from the rocks! This time I wanted to do something different with the oysters that I haven’t done before – make a homemade oyster sauce.
Oyster sauce is a thick brown sauce extracted from boiled oysters. It is a popular condiment used in Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, and is thick, dark and salty-sweet tasting. The sauce has a mild oyster flavour to it but no fishy taste, despite its name. It is very easy to make at home and is very tasty. The home made version is also made without any preservatives or caramel (colouring, to give it its appealing black colour).
2 dozen freshly shucked oysters with liquid reserved
4 tbsp. light soy sauce
2 tbsp. dark soy sauce
1 tbsp. water
1 ½ tsp. raw sugar
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. corn starch – optional
Note – If you don’t have access to fresh oysters, they can be replaced with canned oysters; the light soy sauce can also be replaced with dark soy sauce (a total of 6 tbsp.). Using both light and dark soy sauce will give a greater depth to the oyster sauce. The use of corn starch is completely optional; it can be used to thicken the end product if desired.
Carefully shuck the oysters.
Make sure to reserve the liquid from the shucked oysters, a sieve can be use to help filter out all the grit and shell fragments.
A close up of the fresh oysters.
Gather all the ingredients.
The shucked oysters can be roughly chopped by hand or placed into a food processor, and blitzed (but not for too long!). They don’t have to be finely chopped as they will be filtered out at a later stage. However, the smaller the pieces are chopped the quicker the flavours develop.
Place the chopped oysters into a medium saucepan.
Pour the reserved liquid as well as the water into the saucepan and stir to combine.
Place the saucepan onto a stove top and bring to a rolling boil.
Cover the saucepan and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer for 12-15 minutes allowing for the flavours to develop and concentrate. Stir the oysters every couple of minutes to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the salt then let it cool down to room temperature.
Drain the cooled mixture through a sieve lined with muslin cheese cloth. Press on the solids to extract as much of the liquid as possible.
Place the drained liquid into a clean saucepan and discard the pieces (or you can eat them like I did; a tad salty, but still tasty).
Add the sugar, light and dark soy sauce to the liquid and stir to combine. Return the saucepan back to the stovetop. Do a taste test at this stage as you might want to adjust the quantities of soy sauce to your liking to develop a much stronger flavour. Once again, bringing the liquid to a rolling boil and then reducing the heat to a gentle simmer. Keep the lid off this time and stir every now and then over the next 10-12 minutes. The oyster sauce should start to thicken at this stage as you will lose some of the liquid; if the lid is kept on this will hinder the thickening process. The corn starch can be added during this step to help thicken the sauce if required.
Allow the liquid to cool completely to room temperature and then pour into a clean jar or sauce bottle that has been sterilized in boiling water for at least 15 minutes. Tightly seal the contents and place in the refrigerator until ready to be used. The flavour is much deeper than the store bought sauce. It is a little saltier, but has so much more depth. ‘Briny’ is a better word, briny and rich in umami. Store bought oyster sauce may be ‘prettier’, but I don’t think I’ll be buying it anytime soon.
It can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks up to a 1 month.