Vegan ‘oyster’ sauce and a roasted cauliflower recipe

Commercially made vegetarian oyster sauce is one of the condiments that I always like to have in the fridge. It’s another way of adding the oh so important umami to recipes!

I tend to use it in noodle soups, or to add to dressings, it isn’t so easy to buy around these parts though! And as I used the last of my current bottle last week, it was definitely time to try making it.

There are a lots of recipes around on the internet, but none of those that I looked at seemed like they would have the balance of flavours I was looking for. For me, the sauce needs to have a sweetness to balance the umami of the mushrooms and nori that make up the main flavour profile. So the base of my recipe is a caramel, taken to a dark red-brown, which adds the sweetness I was looking for along with a beautiful flavour just verging on bitter. Also, I want the sauce to be a condiment rather than a finished sauce, so the flavours I’ve put into it are simple, and just waiting for ginger, spices, and more to be added! To be honest though, I’d use it just as it is as a dip it’s so yummy…

The first recipe I’ve made with it is a gorgeous roast cauliflower, with Chinese five spice and the aforementioned ginger, I’ll be serving it with vegetable fried rice.

Cauliflower roasted with vegan oyster sauce and Chinese flavours

Cauliflower roasted with vegan oyster sauce and Chinese flavours

for the vegan ‘oyster’ sauce

makes around 350 ml

2 tbsp caster sugar

9 dried shiitake mushrooms

approx. 400 ml hot water

20 x 10 cm piece of nori, torn up

2 -3 tbsp tamari

1/2 tbsp vinegar

2 tsp cornflour, slaked with a little water

Put the shiitakes in a small bowl and soak in 200 ml of the water for 20 minutes. Squeeze the mushrooms out a little and then chop them in half. Pour the mushroom soaking water into a measuring jug, leaving the grit at the bottom behind. Make the liquid up to 300 ml with hot water.

Caramelise the sugar in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Don’t stir the sugar, but swirl it around as it starts to brown. It needs to get to a rich dark red-brown.

As soon as the caramel colour is right, tip the liquid in to the pan, it will bubble furiously for a few seconds. Stir well to make sure all the caramel is mixed into the liquid. Add the mushrooms, nori, tamari and vinegar to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and blend, I used a hand blender, which doesn’t get it completely smooth, but pretty much there.

Shiitakes and nori simmering

Shiitakes and nori simmering

Add the cornflour with the pan back on the heat, mixing as you do so, and cook for 2 minutes stirring all the time until lovely and thick.

It should keep for 3 days or so in the fridge, I’m planning to freeze tablespoons of the sauce, to use straight from the freezer.

for the roasted cauliflower

serves 2

1/3 of a large cauliflower, cut into florets

50 ml water

2 tbsp vegan oyster sauce

1/4 tsp five spice powder

2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated

1 tsp oil

1 tsp tamari

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees c.

Steam the cauliflower in the microwave for 2 minutes.

Add the vegan oyster sauce, five spice powder, ginger and oil to the cauliflower (and the water it steamed in) and mix well. Tip into a roasting tin and cook in the oven for 20 minutes, mixing halfway through.

Dress the cauliflower with the tamari and coriander.

By E.

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