You know what oyster sauce actually is? "True" oyster sauce is made by boiling oysters in water and then reducing that liquid down to pretty much a caramel -- nothing else is added. But most of the oyster sauce you find is probably just made with oyster extract, cornstarch, salt and caramel. You probably already know about fish sauce - simply fish and salt left to ferment under the sun for months and months until the fish rots and breaks down creating a liquid that is then filtered and seasoned. Yum.
Vietnamese fish sauce has long been a staple in my cupboard but I only bought my first bottle of oyster sauce a few weeks ago - I know, and I'm Chinese. I was looking for gochujang at my local Asian supermarket and you know when you go grocery shopping with a specific dish in mind? I wanted to use gochujang to roast some squash and then top it up with lots of fresh herbs and toasted pumpkin seeds. To my disappointment, however, the supermarket wasn't very well stocked in Korean products. I lingered at the sauces aisle for a good ten minutes, trying to figure out what else I could use to roast my vegetables until I was suddenly interrupted by the store manager. "Do you need help?" I must've looked so confused, looking like a poor foreigner in the midst of all these Asian products and words. "Oh no, no, thank you, I was just looking for my favorite..oyster sauce and here it is." I wanted to be proud and Asian and that's how I ended up with my first bottle of oyster sauce.
I don't know why, I just never really needed to use it. So I googled and found this simple stir-fry recipe with oyster sauce to make my 5-a-days tastier. I also found out that vegetarian oyster sauce is made with mushrooms and that sounds actually much tastier, like an absolute umami bomb.
I used frozen baby okra from my local Mediterranean shop as I just couldn't resist buying them. Baby veg is too cute. The dish probably would've been better with some sturdy leafy greens though. Anyway, do as you wish, make it with chard, make it with cauliflower, make it with chicken even.
Serves 2 as a side
Recipe adapted from The Kitchn
250g baby okra, ends trimmed (or other sturdy greens)
3 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp water
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig spring onion, sliced, for garnish
In a bowl mix together the oyster sauce, water, fish sauce and brown sugar.
In a wok/pan heat 1 tbsp of oil until hot, then add the garlic until sizzling and fragrant. Add the okra and fry for a minute before adding the sauce. Stir and toss the okra until tender, a few minutes. Finish the dish with some spring onion.