Fish Sauce Vs. Soy Sauce Vs. Oyster Sauce – What Are The Differences

The three sauces are famously produced in Asia and have spread to the rest of the world. The three sauces can be used in various dishes, from marinades to barbeque to stir-fries, salad dressing, and many more.

You simply can’t miss a meal without all or one of these sauces.

This article clearly articulates each source, ranging from their origin, production, and uses and their similarities and differences.

Essentially the article is packed with all information you need to know about the three sauces; hence while purchasing any of them, you don’t have to be skeptical about it.

Fish sauce

Fish sauce is made from fish known as anchovies. These are tiny fish that are oily and which are assorted with salt and fermented for months or years.

During the fermentation period, the bacteria in the fish slowly break them down to form a liquid extracted as the sauce.

fish sauce


Though the fish sauce is popularly produced in southeast Asia, it traces its origin in Europe. In the ancient Greek, it was produced as early as 7th century BC and spread to the Roman, and became their staple called garum, composed of fish head, Gut, and blood.

There is also the belief that fish sauce originated in Vietnam as an imitation of Chinese soy sauce. Also, some historians say that it arrived in Asia from the west via the silk road. Significantly The fish sauce we know today is commonly associated with the ones produced in southeast Asia.

How is fish sauce made?

  1. Purchasing

Fish sauce has two ingredients that are the fish and salt. The first process is to select the fish. You can go to the market and buy or choose to use an expert buyer.

The best fish sauce is the one from anchovies; however, others mix the types depending on the availability. Moreover, you have to get fish wish are the same in size.

  1. Fermentation

This is the next step where fish is mixed with salt and kept in giant tanks for the fermentation process. The fish takes six months to a year to slowly break down.

Also, during this time, the fish is stirred every day. When the fish has broken down, the solid will sink while the liquid floats. The liquid is then strained and extracted, which now forms the fish sauce.

  1. Evaporation

The liquid is then kept in ceramic bowls and placed under the sun for five days to 4 weeks, subject to the weather. This stage is considered the hardest as no water is allowed in the sauce.

Afterward, it is transferred to plastic bottles where it ages for another one to two months. Then it is stored for three years. The longer it takes, the lighter it becomes and sweeter, and less salty.


The fish sauce should be stored in its original air-tight container in the kitchen pantry in a cool dark place. Also, be sure to balance the temperature.

Do not hoard it in the refrigerator because the salt might crystallize when exposed to a shallow temperature.

Soy sauce

It is a condiment that is traditionally made through the fermentation process and further involves a combination of wheat, soybean salt, and water.

Soy Sauce Chicken Wings


Soy sauce was initially discovered in China during the era when Buddhism was slowly gaining popularity in China. They discovered the production of soy sauce with the mission to combat the use of the animal product.

It then diffused to other parts of Asia like Japan, Indonesia, and Korea.

Soy Sauce

How is soy made

It is made by soaking soybean in water, and then wheat is roasted and crushed. The two are then assorted with a culturing mold and left up to 3 days.

After that, water and salt are added. And the assortment is transferred to a tank where it is fermented for five to eight months.

Cantonese soya sauce chicken

The enzymes on the mold break down the proteins on the soy and wheat into amino acids as the starch converts into sugar.

When they attain maturity, the mixture is laid on a cloth and pressed to extract liquid. The liquid undergoes a pasteurization process to kill bacteria then it is packed in bottles ready for the market.


Store the soy sauce in its original container in the kitchen pantry away from too much light and heat, ensuring that the temperature is always balanced.

Once opened, you can continue to keep the soy sauce tightly sealed in the kitchen.

Soy Sauce Fried Rice

With soy sauce you can make so many delicious food,try my recipes:

Soy Sauce Fried Rice – Authentic Cantonese Fried Rice Recipe

Soy Sauce Chicken Recipe(Simple And Delicious)

Soy Sauce Chicken Wings

Oyster sauce

It is a savory sauce commonly used in Chinese cuisine. It was traditionally used by the Cantonese and southern regions of China in their cuisine.

This is because of their proximity to beds of oysters along the coast of Guangdong and Hong Kong. The original sauce is syrup-like.

Although it is made from oyster extract, it does not taste anything like it; instead, it has a slightly sweet, salty, and earthy taste.

Oyster sauce


A legendary named lee kum invented the sauce. He had a tea and oyster soup stall. One day while boiling oyster soup, he forgot, and the soup boiled until it simmered to form a brown sauce.

 It became a favorite to the locals hence invented in 1888. The recipe was passed down from one generation to another, and the original recipe is guarded and kept secretly.

The oyster is obtained locally and passes through quality controls before production takes place. Lee Kum only uses the best oyster and excerpts it in-house.

Lee Kum is the only oyster maker that prides itself on making a high-quality oyster sauce, and because of the control kept in place for the production process, the values have been maintained.

Oyster sauce

Tips for identifying a quality oyster

The color is an amusing dark brown with a reflective quality, and the imitation one is dark and unequally colored.

The texture should be sticky, smooth, and thick. Furthermore, when exposed to heat, it does not separate.

The flavors have a rich, in-depth taste with a balance of umami and oyster flavors, accompanied by sweet and salty. It should not have a fishy taste or irritate your stomach.

The aroma should be rich, almost overpowering with oyster or ocean smell, no fish smell.

Oyster sauce Chicken wings


You can store unopened bottled oyster in the kitchen at room temperature for a year, but once it is opened, it is necessary to transfer it to the refrigerator and give it a maximum of 6 months. Therefore, it is essential to transfer canned oysters in a jar then refrigerate them.

Is fish sauce good for you

The presence of fish is essential to the body as it is packed with nutrients and minerals that are important to your body’s immunity and all.

Additionally, the process of fermentation during fish sauce production may have alluded to other nutrients and minerals equally crucial to your body. So let’s have a look.

Source of iron

Iron is a component of fish sauce that is important to the human body. According to scientific research on nutrition, it expresses that for every 10ml of fish sauce used, there is the presence of 10gm of natural iron.

Therefore, constant consumption of fish sauce may reduce the rate of anemia and also premature birth among women.

Source of omega 3

The presence of anchovies in the fish sauce is an essential high source of omega 3. Omega 3 helps in brain development as well as reducing blood fat and also protect the heart. Therefore, if you don’t consume fish, it is highly recommended to use the fish sauce instead.

Source of vitamin

The natural brewing of fish and salt contributes to vitamins like B12, B2, B1, which are helpful for your mental health, immune system functioning, blood health, and reduce tiredness and fatigue. B12 is essential, especially for pregnant women, as it encourages a healthy childbirth rate.

Source of amino acids

The naturally brewed process of fish and salt enhanced by aging leads to the development of amino acids generated during the hydrolysis process. The traditional fish sauce contains 5/8 essential amino acids; this is according to studies.

 The amino acids are essential to the body example, it helps monitor blood sugar, improves memory and skin, and improves calcium absorption and metabolism.

Assist in abolishing fish odor

Aside from adding flavor and taste to your dishes, the fish sauce can also be used to reduce the horrible fish smell from the internal organs without losing their flavor. You only need to add your fish sauce to warm water and use the water to wash the fish. By so doing, the bad smell is removed, leaving you with fresh, delicious fish.

Add spice to the dish

The fish sauce is familiar to the Asian people, and the westerners have adopted its use. For instance, the Italians will use additional fish sauce to their pizza cake to make it more favorable, while others use the fish sauce in a cup of coffee to heighten the intensity of its fragrance.

Keep the body warm.

During the fermentation process of fish sauce, it undergoes the hydrolysis process at this stage. As a result, fish sauce generates a lot of proteins that assist in keeping the body warm. Therefore, the fish sauce is used by professional divers who take a small amount of the natural fish sauce to keep their bodies warm while in the water.

Sauce of sodium

Fish sauce is used to add salt to anything that does not overpower it with flavors and taste or to a range of culinary preparations requiring salts.

Fish sauce can also be wrong in the sense that

The fish sauce has histidine, an amino acid with a specific antioxidant capacity. This component is used by a variety of microorganism that creates histamine, which triggers an outbreak of food poisoning if left to accumulate in food.

Many studies are coming up stressing the percentages of salt in the sauce, bottom line, we understand that fish sauce has lots of salt, and too much of it is harmful to your health. It increases blood pressure chances and also heart attack risks hence you have to use it moderately.

What does fish sauce taste like?

The fish sauce, just like its name, derives its taste from the fish but also has an additional flavor: caramel –sweetness and salty and briny.

Fish sauce is also produced through the fermentation process, which results in the development of the umami tangy and a little funky taste. The fermentation process has developed lots of Asian flavors, and the fish source is no exception.

The umami flavor best complements flavors in foods such as mushrooms, gravies broth, and soy sauce. The fish sauce indeed balances different recipes, including those that are too salty, sweet, bitter, or sour, thus making a recipe that applies fish sauce delectable. Vital to note that you can also use the fish sauce in food outside of Asian cuisine.

Is fish sauce the same as oyster sauce

Fish sauce varies from an oyster in several ways. For instance, their production is different as fish sauce is fermented while the oyster sauce is boiled. In addition, their duration to maturity also differs as oyster takes between 15 to 60 days while fish sauce may take up to 2 years for it to be ready.

Baby Broccoli with Oyster Sauce

 The ingredients used are not the same: oyster sauce uses water, additives, preservatives, and oyster while fish sauce uses salt, water, and anchovies. In essence, there are more differences than similarities. Hence fish sauce is simply not the same as oyster but can be a substitute for each other.

What is the fish sauce used for?

Fish sauce is a versatile sauce that can be used in many ways other than the traditional way of using it in Thai or Vietnamese cooking. Here are several examples you might find interesting.

You can use it in barbeque, sautéed vegetables, salsa, Thai, and Vietnamese dipping sauce. You were also used for marinades like in Vietnamese grilled pork. You can further use it in curry paste, as for most Southeast Asian curries, you will most likely find fish sauce used.

You may substitute salt for fish sauce but not on every dish you would use salt, but you can use fish sauce in chicken, vegetables, and salads. This reduces the amount of salt intake.

You can also use it on pasta sauce. It is particularly significant with Bolognese, use the fish sauce on pickles, especially the Vietnamese pickles, it can also be drizzled with additional olive oil for grilled vegetables

Use the fish sauce in your Chinese fried rice. Also, boost the flavor of your stock and broths using fish sauce. Then, use it during braising for meat, chicken, or fish, and finally, use it in soups like instant pot ramen or Vietnamese pho.

Remember, you only add a spoon or two of the fish sauce to your dish.

Why does fish sauce smell so bad?

Unfortunately, the fish sauce smells so bad yet tastes so good. The fish sauce complements and enhances not only Thai food but almost everything you eat with just a drizzle, and the food is way over the moon.

Vietnam and Thai, who are the primary consumers of the fish sauce, have all come out strongly mentioning that the fish sauce has a smell because of anchovy extract for the commercial fish sauce.

Otherwise, the traditional one does not have such a bad smell. However, people making the fish sauce have acknowledged that during the first six months of fermentation, the sauce produces a stinky smell because of the presence of anchovy.

Here are ways to counter the foul smell if you are a die-hard fan of fish sauce but a hater of its odor.

  1. Just make sure you use enough fish sauce, careful not to add a lot of it to get the right amount of salt. You can also decide to add the fish sauce during the initial stages of your cooking and not towards the end.
  2. Would you mind using the vinegar by pouring it into a saucepan and simmering it for at least one hour? This will eradicate any bad smell coming from the fish sauce.
  3. You can also use oranges and lemon by adding them to boiling water and leaving it while you cook using the fish sauce. You can as well add other condiments to the boiling water like herbs, cloves, and cinnamon.

What does soy sauce taste like?

Soy sauce is a brown liquid made by fermenting a mixture of wheat, soybean, and water for an extended period. The soy sauce provides for salty umami, sweet, savory, and to some extent, bitter taste. However, the balanced flavors make it an excellent condiment for your food.

Dark Soy Sauce

But it depends on where the initial production took place as this determines the texture and flavor. For instance, Japan has a thick consistency, more like a syrup but with less salt, unlike the Chinese soy sauce, which is salty and light.

Soy sauce vs. Worcestershire


Both sauces are different in that they were both discovered in different countries at different times; however, they both trace their origin to the Asian continent.

Soy sauce was discovered in china when Buddhism was very prominent in the area and hence they wanted to use a more vegetarian sauce that did not encourage the use of meat. Its first invention was simply a fermented paste but later underwent a series of changes to today.

Worcestershire, some say it was discovered in England, but it was discovered in India. Its first introduction to the market was in 1837.

The product was sold by lean and Perrin, who also encouraged its use in ships. It was later adapted to other countries. It was later recreated by a British man who encountered the sauce while in India during his tenure there. He, however, missed it when he returned.


Soy sauce and Worcestershire are used both for savory dishes but in different cooking styles and different ways.

Worcestershire is popularly used in beef but can also be used in stews, sauces, and soups. It is also popularly used as a drizzle on eggs to add more flavor to it.

On the other hand, Soy sauce is a famous Asian sauce that can equally be used in cold foods such as sushi and sashimi and used in sautéing hot dishes like stir-fries. It helps add salt to the foods and has an excellent aroma to meals, especially when heated.


 Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce may seem similar in their appearance, but the ingredients are different.

Worcestershire has many ingredients that add to its rich flavor. The ingredients include molasses, anchovies, chili pepper extract, vinegar, onions, garlic, cloves, and tamarind high fructose corn syrup. These ingredients are assorted to form a complex and flavourful balance that many love to use in meat.

Soy sauce is made from a few ingredients, including wheat, soybeans, water salt, and a mold called koji, mixed and left to ferment for months.

The difference in aging time

Both soy sauce and Worcestershire are made through fermentation, and that is why they produce such rich deep, complex flavors; the time they both take to mature is different.

Soy sauce duration of time needed for maturity is between 6months to 1year while Worcestershire maturity age is 18months, but both depend on the producer.


Soy sauce has a distinct salty flavor because it is one of the components; however, it derives another flavor like sour and umami due to the fermentation process. On the other hand, Worcestershire sauce has a more complex flavor owing to the various ingredients used for its production also because it takes a longer time of fermentation.

Soy sauce flavor is much mellow than Worcestershire for both smell and flavor. This is partly because of the fewer ingredients used, and the ingredients are equally not flavourful.

Can fish sauce be a substitute for oyster sauce

To substitute one thing for another, you might have to look at the similarities in their ingredients, taste or flavors, and consistency and purpose; however, since it’s a substitute, you don’t expect the exact result of taste.

The oyster sauce has a sweet, savory, earthy, and salty taste. It has a thick consistency, and the primary purpose is to add a pleasantly salty taste to your food.

Fish sauce has a consistency that is lighter than the oyster. It has salty, savory umami. Its purpose includes adding salt flavor to dish making. However, it is aggressive when it comes to the smell; therefore, you need to be careful while adding the sauce

In this findings, there are several similarities but not all; hence depending on what recipe you are preparing and the flavors and taste you intend to be your outcome, you might want to substitute fish sauce for oyster or vice versa.

Difference between oyster sauce and fish sauce

Taste and flavors

A mild aroma characterizes oysters with salty and a hint of sweetness with a caramelized flavor. It gives an additional umami flavor when added to foods such as stories. On the other hand, fish sauce has a pungent fish smell which can be countered by adding lime juice or just using a small amount. It is salty and sour and has a nutty flavor.


Oyster is used mainly in stir-fries. The purpose is for thickener or seasoning. Its mild sweetness can balance the bitterness in leafy veggies and can also be used in a dipping sauce. Fish sauce is used in foods that require extra sodium or umami flavors. For example, you can use fish sauce to make casseroles, pickles soup, and other sauces.


Oyster sauce can be used to replace fish sauce in recipes that require an additional umami taste like in rice fries by adding water to thin out its consistency and using soy sauce at the same time. but cannot work as a fish substitute in dishes that require the thin consistency of a fish sauce

Fish sauce, on the other hand, is not a perfect substitute for oysters because it requires recipes that do not necessarily have to overpower it whoever you can use it for several recipes


Oyster sauce is believed to have originated in a province in china then spread to the rest of the world. It is a vital ingredient in some Chinese dishes. fish sauce, on the other side, has no apparent trace of its origin as some say it originated in China or Europe, but it is popularly used in Thai, Vietnam, and Cambodia


Fish sauce texture is light, whereas oyster sauce has a thick consistency. Although they can be used as a substitute for each other, their consistency determines the recipe to be used. Oyster is brownish while fish sauce amber or reddish-brown color

Method of preparation

Oyster is made by adding oyster concentrate to water and boiling it at a low temperature until thick juice consistency. Traditionally there are additional additives and preservatives. Anchovies make a fish sauce the main ingredient; however other fish types can also be used, they are then passed through a fermentation process.


Oyster sauce is a complete concentration of oyster, but traditionally oyster is made with addition can have preservative flavor and additives. The modern oyster has additional flavor, color, and preservatives.

Fish sauce has different ingredients distinct from the country or area. Some use raw or dried fish, some use a specific variety, while others use a mixture of fish variety.

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