Stir-Fried Iceberg Lettuce with Oyster Sauce

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Stir-fried iceberg lettuce with oyster sauce is a simple and delicious side! Scroll down to read my recommendations for nut-free oyster sauce.

This post was updated on 12/21/2023.

Disclaimer: Please check that all ingredients are suitable for your allergies and be sure to ask your medical care team regarding any allergy related questions (I do not share medical advice). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Simple Vegetable Side Dish

Add a little bit of oil to a hot frying pan. Add lettuce and stir fry until wilted and finish with a drizzle of oyster sauce. Done! If you have any leftover pieces of lettuce from Make Beautiful Lettuce Cups for Lettuce Wraps, add them to this recipe. This recipe is also a great addition to Chinese New Year meals!

What About an Oyster Allergy?

For many years, I avoided oyster sauce because my son’s allergy test results to shellfish were ambiguous and I avoided out of caution. Over time, we learned that my son was not mollusks (so he could have clams, oysters, mussels, etc.) and eventually outgrew his crustacean allergy too.

I tried a lot of different alternatives to using oyster sauce, one at at time.

  • a drizzle of soy sauce – good, flavorful but watery
  • stir fry with a few tablespoons of broth – very delicious
  • a few drops of sesame oil – yum
  • stir fry with garlic – too strong for the mild tasting lettuce
  • stir fry with ginger – also too strong in flavor
  • add to boiling water and drain when wilted – good plain, I like this more than garlic or ginger
  • a sprinkle of salt in the oil – like magic, yum (exactly how my mom makes it)

Cooked Iceberg Lettuce in Chinese Food is Delicious!!

Even though it may seem unusual to cook iceberg lettuce, it’s also uncommon to eat raw vegetables in Chinese cuisine.

One can find cooked lettuce at the bottom of a clay pot of beef stew, under a delicious braise of shitake mushrooms. In both of those dishes, the lettuce is completely smothered with a delicious sauce and still a little bit crunchy.

There is nothing as simple and delicious as stir fried iceberg lettuce with oyster sauce which leads to some thoughts about oyster sauce and which brands might be allergy friendly.

stir fry lettuce with oyster sauce

Allergy-Friendly Brands of Oyster Sauce

Koon Chun – Sharon’s Current Favorite

Back in 2017, I met a distributor who told me about Koon Chun’s oyster sauce. He suggested that I consider trying their new oyster sauce which tastes great and does not contain any preservatives. I also love that this brand does not make any products with nuts and it’s also a large brand in Hong Kong with their own factory. I usually find this brand in authentic Chinese stores but some of the following oyster sauces might be easier to source.

Lee Kum Kee – Premium Oyster Sauce

I like their Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Sauce with a picture of a lady and a boy in a row boat. They also make an oyster sauce with a panda on it, it’s good but not as good. A closer examination of ingredient labels is very revealing as to what makes their premium brand superior to many other oyster sauces. 

Lee Kum Kee’s Premium Oyster sauce lists oysters as its first ingredient whereas other brands of “oyster flavored sauce” list water and sugar as the first few ingredients. I don’t want to buy “oyster flavored sauce” that is mainly made of water and sugar. I want “oyster sauce” with lots of flavor.

We use the premium oyster sauce without issues but for the purposes of this blog, I’ve emailed and called Lee Kum Kee for clarification regarding specific products several times, and as of today, I still haven’t heard back from them which is disappointing. However, the allergen information posted on their FAQ is helpful, clear and specific with details about how they prevent cross-contact and how they analyze for peanut residue. If you have additional concerns, please follow up with them by calling their Los Angeles office (let me know what you find out in the comments below). If you have access to an Asian market, the product retails for $6-8 a bottle.

Oyster sauces by Lee Kum Kee, I like the Premium Oyster Sauce on the right because oysters is the first ingredient.
Oyster sauces by Lee Kum Kee, I like the Premium Oyster Sauce on the right because oysters is the first ingredient.

Kikkoman – green label

Some people might feel comfortable with Kikkoman products. According to their allergen information chart, peanuts and tree nuts are not in the product, but peanuts are in the facility. Generally oyster sauce will contain soy, wheat, gluten, shellfish, and corn but definitely check their allergen information chart and contact them if you have additional concerns not answered by viewing their chart. They have three kinds, with a blue label, with a green label, and with a red label. I tried the green label because it is preservative free and MSG free. I bought a bottle Kikkoman Green Label Oyster Sauce (affiliate link) to try and it tastes good, but not what I’m used to.

kikkoman oyster sauce

Wan Ja Shan – Vegetarian Option

People with shellfish allergies or who prefer a vegetarian option can look for mushroom flavored vegetarian oyster sauce, which is a common substitute for oyster sauce. Wan Ja Shan makes a Vegetarian Mushroom Oyster Sauce and they informed me via email, “Our whole facility doesn’t process any ingredient containing Peanuts and Tree Nuts in our production.”

If you have other allergen concerns, I encourage you to contact them for further clarification. The Wan Ja Shan Mushroom Oyster Sauce tastes good but is watery compared to regular oyster sauce. Lee Kum Kee also makes a mushroom oyster sauce, but I haven’t tried it and can’t comment on the taste, but if I had to choose, I would choose Wan Ja Shan because I know that the risk of cross contact is very minimal.

IMG_6406

Other Substitutes for Oyster Sauce?

Oyster sauce tastes sweet and salty, the oysters give it a little umami boost, and it’s viscous so perfect for adding flavor without watering down a sauce. If one were allergic to the ingredients of oyster sauce (oysters, soy, wheat, corn, etc..) then I would consider a combination of options that would give you similar results such as my list of soy sauce substitutes, soy free soy sauce recipe, or soy sauce plus a little bit of sugar and a cornstarch slurry (or tapioca flour or potato starch), or try the alternatives listed above. Be creative.

Make Your Own Oyster Sauce

I found a write up about an oyster sauce taste test and at the bottom there are two methods for making your own oyster sauce, which one can do only if they are not allergic to oysters and other shellfish. The method is basically boil a pint of oysters with half a cup of water or chicken stock for about 30 minutes, add about 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, some sugar, some spices, some rice wine, and then strain and store in a refrigerator. The oyster solids can be used for an omelet or fried rice. The oyster sauce can only be stored for one week which seems like a lot of work and expense but might be worthwhile if you want to control the ingredients, avoid preservatives, MSG, and caramel coloring.

Be an Allergy Aware Consumer

I have done my best to find out the allergen information for the products mentioned. But it’s important realize that manufacturers can change ingredients, add new products, change their manufacturing processes at any time without warning. Even though we use these products, everyone has different allergies, I recommend checking for yourself whether these oyster sauces will work for you.

Manufacturers are not required by the FDA to disclosed allergen advisories such as whether an allergen is manufactured on shared equipment or in the same facility, they are only required to disclose whether a product intentionally includes an allergen. I find that some manufacturers might email a general reply but do not respond to follow up questions.

That leaves us in a difficult situation but we can slowly effect change by taking the time to call and ask our questions, express any concerns, and use our spending power to support the companies that have allergen information posted on their websites, who return phone calls, and who respond to emails. For more information on allergen advisories and reading labels, refer to my earlier blog post about food label reading. 

Related reading: What’s in Nut Free Wok’s Cupboard

This recipe as written is free of peanuts, tree nuts, egg, dairy, and fish. It can be easily adapted to be free of top 8 allergens by using a soy free soy sauce recipe instead of oyster sauce.

Stir Fried Iceberg Lettuce with Oyster Sauce

This recipe as written is free of peanuts, tree nuts, egg, dairy, and fish. It can be easily adapted to be free of top 8 allergens by using a soy free soy sauce recipe instead of oyster sauce.
Course vegetable side dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4 -6 servings
Author Sharon Wong

Ingredients

  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce

Instructions

  1. Select big, dense, heavy for its size iceberg lettuce that looks fresh and free of pinkish discoloration.
  2. Peel and discard wilted outer leaves, use a knife to cut out the core.
  3. Wash, tear into medium sized pieces 2-3 inches square, drain in a colander.
  4. Heat up a wok or large stock pot on medium heat for a few minutes.
  5. Add olive oil to the wok, swirl to coat, add lettuce and stir fry until the wok stops sizzling.
  6. Cover and check every two minutes, stirring until the lettuce looks slightly wilted (takes 4-6 minutes).
  7. Drizzle with oyster sauce, stir to mix, and serve immediately.

 

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About Sharon Wong 266 Articles
Welcome to Nut Free Wok, a blog about Allergy Aware Asian Fare. I hope that you will find my food allergy mom experiences helpful and enjoyable to read as I write about recipes, cooking techniques, Asian ingredients, and food allergy related awareness and advocacy issues. My professional experiences include education, teaching, and a little bit of science and computers. Thank you for visiting! ~Sharon Wong, M.Ed.

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