Oysters in the Raw – an experience to be shared

Right: from top center, clockwise: Kusshi, Phantom Creek, Malpeque, Little Wing, Fanny Bay, Satori, Black Pearl at The Oyster in Victoria, BC. Photos by Rebecca Wellman.



By Joelene Heathcote 


Ok so maybe you are just friends but what if it’s something more?  There are a few ways you can find out, but a plate of raw oysters is a good place to start. Of course there’s skepticism as to whether raw seafood of any kind has aphrodisiac qualities but it’s hard to deny the sensuality of an oyster: the lacy edges, the plump briny meat, its slick texture on the tongue. Sexual comparisons abound but savouring of the raw oyster is an experience to be shared, an exploration in flavour subtlety, and a tribute to good health. And who wouldn’t want that for their friends… with benefits or without.


You and your pal have been walking that tight rope of intense attraction for a while now, and you’d like to move it from titillating flirtation to something with teeth. It’s a natural progression despite what others might suggest. The raw oyster is your food ally, and the perfect hormone-upping small plate to accompany a liberating glass of wine or two. Its freshness leaves you energized and ready for action, unlike a lamb burger or duck breast which might make you tired and bloated and yearning  for CSI.


Right now you might be saying, but I hate oysters, cooked or raw. Trust me, I sympathize. I was not a big fan myself for many years but the oysters I’m talking about are not the fat monsters your dad used to harvest off the mud flats and pan fry to hell with bacon or no-name soda crackers. You don’t have to cut these babies with a steak knife and there is no big belly full of green pate-like substance.  They are tiny, creamy, and sweet like civeche. Besides, who could possibly say no to a buddy who has dressed your bivalve with a cucumber mignonette and shaved horseradish and is waiting expectantly for you to suck it clean from its shell?


Many species of west coast oyster like Little Wings, Kumamoto and Kusshi have little to no briny ocean taste at all. They’re clean and cold and slightly brackish in flavour—much of which, incidentally, is owed to the pristine environment of Vancouver Island and its surrounding waters. As varied and exciting as Scotch, each type of raw mollusk is subtle on the tongue, hinting at a palate of melon, mint and earthy rain forest. Not only is it a local and sustainable delicacy, the oyster is a beneficial source of omega 3 fatty acid, vitamins B12 and B9. High in iron which increases sperm production, it also contains those rare amino acids that heighten sex hormones. Not a bad side effect if you ask me, so even if suddenly you and your glowing dinner companion realize you don’t want to rip each other’s clothes off, and you do end up going home alone, you’ll be jacked for a marathon of one handed push-ups or the treadmill at level nine.


If you want to try the experience in the privacy of your own home and impress all your good ‘friends’, here are some DIY tips:

  1. Buy a proper shucking knife. Yes, a flat head screwdriver works but it’s deadly.
  2. Scrub the oysters under cold water with a stiff brush to remove the dirt
  3. Using a durable thick cloth, fold it over several times to create a square; this will steady the oysters as you shuck them and also protect your hand.
  4. Using the towel as a mitt, place the oyster cup-side down in the palm of your towel-covered hand with the hinge facing you.
  5. Insert the tip of an oyster knife as far into the hinge as it will go.
  6. With gentle force, twist the knife back and forth to pry the shell open. Using the knife, cut the muscle away from the top shell, bend the shell back and discard it. Run the knife underneath the oyster to detach it completely, but leave it in its shell.
  7. Nestle the oysters in a bed of crushed ice to keep them steady.
  8. Prepare your condiments and drinks

Certain flavours really enhance the subtlety of oysters like cucumber, mint, lemon, and sparkling wine – prefably one crisp and dry – which effervesces on the tongue and cleanses the palate between mouthfuls.

Getting fresh local oysters is just as important as the condiments you whip up to go with them. The Fish Store on Fisherman’s Warf in James Bay, as well as Finest at Sea Seafood Market are both excellent sources for fresh shellfish, fish, and crab. Here are some mignonettes and sauces I enjoy with oysters in the raw:

Mint sauce with Grapefruit

  • 1 grapefruit squeezed
  • 12 mint leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon white sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons white wine or champagne

Separate mint leaves from stems, measure ingredients into a food processor and grind.  Pour sauce into a small serving dish with spoon so guests can help themselves.


Ginger Lime sauce

  • 1 Tablespoon of grated ginger
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 Tablespoon of cilantro
  • 1-2 teaspoons of sugar

Separate cilantro leaves from stem and add all ingredients into a food processor. Repeat instructions as above.

Horseradish sauce

  • 2 Tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 squeezed lemon
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce
  • Cracked salt

Process and dish. Serve with lemon wedges on the side

Cocktail sauce is another popular addition to this array of sauces and recipes abound. Personally, I find Tobasco and cocktail sauce to be too strong and mask the subtlety of the oysters—especially at this time of year when they are the freshest, most flavourful, and come packed with just the perfect amount of je ne sais quoi that may or may not be need to jack up your mojo.






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