Suppose you love preparing Asian dishes and Chinese in particular. In that case, it is essential you get to understand the similarities and differences of the famous sauces made in this region to up your cooking game.
These two traditional sauces both come from China, and they give your Chinese recipe a whole new flavor. Both these sauces have the same look, and you may sometimes mistake one for another.
Many people ask the question of whether you can substitute one of these sauces for another. It is possible but with slight changes on either sauce.
They might have a similar taste, but the hoisin and oyster sauce are different on a closer look.
That said, you must get to understand what sets these two sauces apart. Should you be on the verge of making traditional Chinese food, understanding, their differences will make it easier for you when deciding which sauce is needed for a particular recipe.
What is hoisin sauce?
Image: cafe deluxe
Hoisin sauce is a fragrant sauce usually used in making Chinese food and especially Cantonese cuisine.
This sauce has a dark-brown appearance and is often used to make dishes such as marinades, vegetable stir-fries, and glaze for meat.
Depending on the region the sauce is made, its flavor may vary because of the different additives added to the sauces when being made.
The name hoisin sauce is a short form of the word seafood sauce. However, when making this sauce, there are no seafood ingredients used.
The flavor brings the name since it tastes much like seafood. Besides, this sauce is not always eaten with seafood dishes.
The vital ingredient used when making the hoisin sauce is the fermented soybean paste. It is then blended with other spices such as garlic, red chili peppers, sugar, and vinegar, which gives it both a sweet and savory taste.
Commercially made hoisin sauce might have some preservatives added during its making process. Traditionally, toasted mashed soybeans were used to make this sauce up until fermented soybeans replaced it.
The umami flavor that this sauce initially had might have come from seafood ingredients used back then.
How does the hoisin sauce taste?
The hoisin sauce’s taste is often similar to the American barbeque sauce, with the only difference being that it is relatively thicker, saltier, and less sweet with a unique flavor.
Compared to other sauces, hoisin sauce usually has a thick consistency with a pronounced and robust savory flavor. The fermented soybean paste is what gives this sauce the all-important umami flavor.
When making this sauce, some people try to achieve the umami element by using fish or meat as ingredients.
What is oyster sauce?
Image: cafe deluxe
Oyster sauce is a dark syrup-like condiment made from oyster extracts. The sauce comes to be after cooking several oysters. It is mainly used in preparing different Chinese recipes, and its appearance may vary based on how it is made.
This sauce is usually slightly sweet with a salty taste. Generally, this sauce is made by boiling oyster juices all at once together with sugar and salt. Its thickness varies from standard soy sauce to barbeque sauce.
Other versions of this sauce are made using the typical soy sauce, usually thickened with cornstarch. The darker versions of oyster sauce are usually caramelized. This sauce is used in different regions, including Thailand and Vietnam.
Despite its name and the fact that it is made using seafood, it does not taste like fish or fish sauce as many people would think. Its taste is enhanced when other ingredients are added to the sauce as the salt is balanced well.
It is mainly used both when preparing vegetables and meat. The high-quality oyster sauce usually retains its original dark color regardless of the ingredients used when being made.
The price of the oyster sauce in the stores and supermarkets is always closer to the soy sauce price, but it may fluctuate, which depends primarily on the brand.
How does oyster sauce taste?
Many people have always believed that this sauce tastes like seafood, but that is not the case.
It usually has a salty undertone but has got a bit of sweet flavor in it brought by the addition of different ingredients during its making.
This sauce’s salty flavor resembles the brine water from the ocean and not the regular salt we are all used to. The signature oyster sauce is usually savory, with different flavors that add depth to the sauce.
How do you store oyster sauce?
There are no complications when it comes to storing your oyster sauce. If you have an unopened oyster sauce, store it in a cool, dry place.
It can last in your cupboards for a year or more when stored in a dry place. Ensure you keep it away from your heating appliances.
The storage order changes when you open the oyster bottle; you have to put it in the fridge. When refrigerated, this sauce will last for about six months before going bad.
If you bought a canned oyster sauce and opened it, you need to transfer the remainder to an airtight container and store it in your fridge for not more than six months.
Difference between hoisin sauce and oyster sauce
Here are some critical differences between hoisin and oyster sauce;
When you take a closer look, both these sauces appear to have the same color. The thickness consistency is usually almost the same. The color difference can sometimes be seen, which depends on the ingredients used when making the sauce.
Flavor and texture of the sauces
The flavor and textures of these sauces vary from one another. The flavor of hoisin sauce is often sweeter than oyster sauce, and that is because it contains several spices.
It also has a tangy flavor, but the sweetness tends to suppress the savory flavor.
On the other hand, oyster sauce is usually milder than hoisin with a savory flavor. It has a smooth texture and often very dense. For commercial purposes, some people add caramel to make it darker and add some richness to the sauce.
Purpose of the sauce
When you first glance at these sauces, they have the same color with almost the same viscosity, but their purposes and functions are different.
For instance, hoisin sauce is often the thicker between the two, and it makes a perfect sauce for your vegetables.
Traditionally, this sauce is used when making the pecking duck dish which is a very popular dish in Chinese cuisine. This sauce usually turns the duck red, and there is nothing that tastes good than this dish.
For the oyster sauce, usually tastes good on meat. The savory flavors are essential when added to stir-fried dishes. Even if you are a newbie in the kitchen, the oyster sauce will take your dish to a different level, but it should not be overused.
It is mainly used to prepare dishes such as kung pao and Sichuan noodles, and without oyster sauce, these dishes will not be complete.
Hoisin sauce is vegan.
Almost everyone knows this. Oyster sauce is not vegan as it is made by boiling several types of oysters. Several ingredients are then added to enhance its taste.
Some of the ingredients include sugar, salt, and soy products. Depending on the brand, thickening ingredients are sometimes added and caramel to give it a deep dark brown color.
One thing, though is that, this sauce does not taste like fish even by the fact it is made from different oysters. It usually has a salty flavor though it doesn’t taste the same as the table salt we often use. It tastes like brine water.
On the other hand, if you are vegan, you’ve got something to smile about. This sauce is 100% vegetarian, with the key ingredient being soybeans. Other ingredients are blended in together with the soybeans to give it the perfect taste.
Most Asian foods are usually known for including kinds of seafood in their foods and sauces. That means having a pure vegan sauce is just amazing. This sauce usually has two flavors in one, and that is the sweet sauce and tangy sauce on the other part.
Can you substitute one sauce with the other?
There’s nothing terrible than missing some essential ingredients when making a specific recipe, and you find either hoisin or oyster sauce empty in their bottles.
Well, to some extent, you can use these sauces interchangeably, causing much of a fuss. However, you need to add some ingredients to any of these sauces to make them replicate one another’s taste.
Compared to hoisin sauce, oyster sauce is usually milder and to make it taste like hoisin sauce. You need to add sugar and different spices to the oyster sauce. This will add a different flavor to the oyster sauce.
The flavor of oyster sauce is usually salty; therefore, you need to add some water to dilute the saltiness. This will interfere with its original flavor. This is the best you can do if you don’t want to end up with a salty meal.
Is oyster sauce the same as fish sauce?
These two sauces are by far much very different. They are two different sauces with different flavors and different techniques employed during their making process.
Fish sauce is made using only two ingredients which are salt and fermented fish. On the other hand, oyster sauce is made by boiling different oysters then different ingredients added to give it a salty and sweet flavor.
This is the main reason why these two sauces are different in flavors, aroma, and color. Fish sauce is usually extremely salty and has a reddish-brown appearance.
Both these sauces have unique flavors, and each sauce has its purpose in the culinary world. It depends on what dish you are preparing and what flavor you are looking for.