Wednesday, January 31, 2007

nothing compares

to the one and only most authentic of oyster sauces, Lee Kum Kee.
This is the brand I am familiar with, enjoy the taste of, and - having consumed so much of it in my yoot (Humor me, this is one of my fave cult films. Go to 9:06 for 'the line', I laff out loud at this dialog between Vinny and the judge. I always but always do).

Ahem. Alrighty then. Lee Kum Kee is also the reason I pooh-pooh other oyster-flavored sauces.

Lee Kum Kee - the bottle with the famous label depicting a woman wearing a blue dress and a boy donning a yellow shirt and blue shorts. They share a boat with giant sized oysters (the Bible sez...).

My family-of-origin used this condiment like many other All-American families use catsup. As an All-American family, we also used our fair share of catsup...

We used oyster sauce in our stir-fry dishes.
We often dribbled oyster sauce straight from the bottle over top of stir-fried gai lan.

A thin layer of oyster sauce was a delectable topping for jing don, a savoury egg custard dish that is both simple and challenging to cook.

More than anything, I loved using Lee Kum Kee Oyster-Flavored Sauce for bite-sized pieces of siu yook (roast pork belly meat (or) whole suckling pig (don't investigate this further if you think piglets are cute - which I do, but alas, they are also quite tasty). It's often stated that siu yook is an entreƩ served for special occasions such as weddings. In our home, siu yook was a staple that appeared on the dinner table several times a week. Not the whole roast suckling pig, mind you - but a pound or pound a half at a time (purchased at the 'deli' in Chinatown). So much for being poor folk. We ate WELL. No small wonder friends 'just happened to drop' by at the dinner hour...(Yes, we welcomed them, shared whatever we were serving, added more if needed and it was always great fun to dine en masse).

One of my tasks as 'kid kitchen assistant' was to create, in a small shallow dish - the perfect ratio of oyster sauce to garlic and ginger infused peanut oil. This was served as a dipping sauce alongside a platter of cut-up siu yook.

Tonight, I opened a bottle of squeezable Lee Kum Kee and squirted a tiny bit over my steamed lop cheoung rice. The slightly pungent, yet spirited aroma of the oyster sauce immediately triggered rather vivid olfactory as well as gustatory memories.

A traumatic moment or event can cause your whole life to flash before your eyes. But what about all your meals flashing before your eyes? That sensation can certainly be roused by the smell of certain foods/ spices/ condiments. Happens to me all the dang time.

And I luv it.

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