I’m sure we have all heard of Lee Kum Kee before. Not sure where? Check your favourite sauce bottles in your or your parents’ kitchen and I’m sure you will find a sauce bottle with Lee Kum Kee on its sticker, usually stained from good use!

But who is Lee Kum Kee?

Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Sauce

Well the more appropriate question is what is Lee Kum Kee, and who is Lee Kum Sheung? 

Lee Kum Sheung, established the sauce company Lee Kum Kee in 1888 in Nanshui, Zhuhai, Guangdong Province in China when he invented oyster sauce. Yes you heard me, Mr Lee INVENTED oyster sauce!!! Move over Bruce Lee, Andy Lau and Vera Wang, there’s a new icon in town!

Lee Kum-sheung, the founder of Lee Kum Kee. / Photo: Lee Kum Kee

At the time Lee Kum Sheung was a chef at a small eatery that sold cooked oysters. Humble beginnings for a company that in 2019 was estimated to be worth $15 billion.

According to legend, Lee Kum Sheung was in the kitchen tending to his normal cooking when he left the stove on and went to help assist customers as it was a busy day. Smelling a strong scent coming from the kitchen, he rushed back to his stove to find a dark thick paste. This dark thick paste became the base for his oyster sauce and thus began the saucy story of Lee Kum Kee!

To this day, Lee Kum Kee continues to be a family business run by the Lee Family, producing over 200 styles of sauce, including oyster sauce, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, XO sauce, chilli sauce, dipping sauce and many more. Sadly, the most recent chairman of the company, Lee Man Tat, just recently passed away on the 26th of July 2021 at the age of 91. Lee Man Tat, known as ‘the King of Oyster Sauce’, was the grandson of Lee Kum Seung and son of Lee Siu-Nam.

Lee Man-tat

The company has previously been based in Macau although these days and for the past 90 years or so, home has been in Hong Kong. Lee Kum Kee also has established bases in the United States, Canada, Xinhui, Huangpu, Malaysia and Los Angeles.

Oh and just for fun, the company purchased London’s landmark Walkie-Talkie Building for 1.3 billion pounds in 2017. Life is good when you have an international sauce empire!

lee kum kee Walkie-Talkie Building

So next time you are using your favourite Lee Kum Kee products, take a second to think about how a simple chef created a billion dollar company. Your dreams could come true too!

Golden Grocery