After reading I Put that Sh*t on Everything, I realized that there were three sauces that were missing; Hoisin Sauce, Oyster Sauce and XO Sauce. In the Asian food aisles of Safeway, Superstore and other major grocery stores, you will surely be able to find these famous sauces.
They’re often packaged in skinny glassware or a tubby jar and have a unlikeable dark color to them. Don’t be put off by their foreign look and packaging – if you’ve enjoyed Chinese, Vietnamese or any other South East Asian cuisine, you have had them before!
Hoisin Sauce’s literal meaning is seafood sauce. But don’t be fooled by the label, it actually does not contain fish or any seafood ingredients. It is made from soybeans – usually combined with sugar, garlic, vinegar and spices, and comes in yellow or reddish-brown with variations in consistency.
The best way to distinguish it is by its taste. It is sweet, spicy and salty. It is used as a glaze for meats and as a condiment for cooked food – much like Siracha, maggi or bbq sauce. You may have tried it with Pho noodles or when you eat Peking duck.
The origin of Oyster Sauce was when a man from Guangdong China, accidentally overcooked oysters. He realized the clear oyster juice turned into a thick, brownish sauce that was favorable to others.
The modern Oyster Sauce is much more commercialized. The main ingredients are cornstarch to thicken the texture, salt, and oyster essence. It can be used during cooking things like chow-mein or as condiment for chicken rice, dumplings, wonton…etc. My favorite pairing is with steamed vegetables (bok choy and spinach for example). I love the intense savory and slightly sweet flavor that it adds to the taste of boiled vegetables, rice, noodles and everything else!
With much more expensive ingredients, XO Sauce is often considered as a higher quality sauce than Hoisin and Oyster sauce. XO Sauce was developed in Hong Kong but named after the French XO Cognac (Extra Old) which symbolizes wealth, exclusivity and status.
XO sauce is a premium spicy seafood sauce that is widely used as a condiment. Many call it the Emperor of Sauces for its luxurious ingredients; dried scallops, dried shrimps, Yunnan and Jin Hua ham, shallots, ginger, garlic and red chili. Trust me, if you choose better seafood and real Yunnan and Jin Hua ham, it is a lot more expensive than you thought.
I think my mother makes the best XO Sauce. She has her own secret recipe and she claims she only uses the best seafood. My favorite way of using the XO Sauce is to add some into my leftover congee or rice when I’m on the go. For someone who is against instant noodles, I think this is a great alternative for a quick and easy meal.
Oyster and Hoisin Sauce add flavor to food like how salt, pepper and ketchup do. XO Sauce not only increases flavors, but it has a delicate taste from mixture of the ingredients.
So the next time you want to get some condiments, ditch the ketchup and Siracha sauce. Try out these sauces, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as the others – or more!