The world’s oldest oyster sauce brand is Lee Kum Kee, founded in 1888. How Lee Kam Sheung invented this condiment is astonishing.
Lee Kam Sheung Brand: Born Accidentally
In Lee Kam Sheung’s little tea business in Zhuhai, Guangdong, Lee Kum Kee’s oyster sauce was accidentally found. Lee Kam Sheung accidentally left a pot of oyster soup simmering on the burner on a busy day surrounded by customers.
The soup had reduced into a thick, brownish paste with a tempting taste when he returned to the kitchen, creating oyster sauce.
He repeated the experiment with the same quantities and was surprised that the sauce tasted the same. Simmering fresh oysters in liquid made Lee Kam Sheung’s oyster sauce a sticky caramel.
Kelp, salt, sugar, and spices created a thick, flavorful dark brown sauce.
Lee Kam Sheung Vision: Sharing Discovery
Lee Kam Sheung immediately introduced his new product to the locals, who loved it. He increased production of his oyster sauce after seeing its appeal.
Tragically, his sauce factory burned in 1902. Lee Kam Sheung then moved to Macau to start a bigger sauce firm. Today, Lee Kum Kee is one of the world’s biggest oyster sauce makers.
Thai and other Asian cuisines employ oyster sauce. It also adds an Asian flavor to international food.
After Lee Kam Sheung’s death in 1932, his family’s oyster sauce company grew due to market demand. In the same year, when Lee Kum Kee’s oyster sauce became renowned in Macau, the family opened a branch in Hong Kong, a growing worldwide market.
After then, their oyster sauce became popular in the UK, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, the US, and South Africa. Large-scale exports increased in the 1970s.
Hong Kong is the preferred site for quality control and taste consistency, even though most oyster sauce manufacturing and raw ingredients are in Zhanjiang, China, a 1,200-hectare facility.
Lee Kum Kee makes approximately 200 items, including Premium, Panda, and Vegetarian Stir-Fry Sauce.
The Legacy of Lee Kam Sheung: Oyster Sauce Evolution
Lee Kam Sheung helped the oyster sauce business thrive. Many producers have followed him, making oyster sauces under Healthy Boy, Dynasty, Dragonfly, and Mae Krua.
Family Business Management
Fifth-generation Lee Kum Kee properly preserved. The manufacturing process thoroughly supervised and standardized. Color, texture, non-fishy flavor, and rich scent are required for the sauce. Harvested oysters must be aged for 2–3 years.
Long-term family company success and unity need comprehensive governance structures. Lee Kum Kee generations have done this.
The family governs family and business separately to promote peace. A family council manages succession planning and investments.
The Lee family involves and trains the next generation to guarantee a seamless transition and prevent nepotism by putting untrained people in crucial posts.
The ‘virus’ usually spreads from little difficulties. Better to prevent than treat. Eddy Lee, the fourth generation of Lee Kum Kee, told The Nation Newspaper Thailand that family businesses should act before they become ill.
Success and Global Reach Continue
Lee Kam Sheung developed a delicious oyster sauce that has earned Lee Kum Kee a global brand in over 100 countries. They presently manufacture in China, Hong Kong, the US, and Southeast Asia.
Lee Kum Kee has sold oyster sauce for over 130 years and developed chili sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, black pepper sauce, and other handy seasonings in recent decades.
And then, in 2015, astronaut Scott Kelly served a Thanksgiving meal in orbit using Lee Kum Kee items, boosting its popularity.